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New visions for Winslow

Conceptual drawings on parking improvements to emerge from the Winslow Tomorrow design charrette suggest shared space for parked cars and pedestrians (top); parking in the center of Winslow Way (middle); and a multi-level parking garage cut into the slope behind Winslow Way’s north side businesses. Designers crafted designs aimed at making parking plentiful, accessible and safe. - Courtesy of Winslow Tomorrow/Sandy Fischer
Conceptual drawings on parking improvements to emerge from the Winslow Tomorrow design charrette suggest shared space for parked cars and pedestrians (top); parking in the center of Winslow Way (middle); and a multi-level parking garage cut into the slope behind Winslow Way’s north side businesses. Designers crafted designs aimed at making parking plentiful, accessible and safe.
— image credit: Courtesy of Winslow Tomorrow/Sandy Fischer

What does the future hold? Results of the city’s charrette may point the way.

Many words have been used to describe the many possible futures of downtown Winslow. Now the community has images to go with those words.

During a recent design charrette sponsored by the city for Winslow Tomorrow, planners and architects put their heads together for a collective brainstorm.

In the two-day event, business people, non-motorized advocates and conservationists joined design professionals in confronting change – and a few thousand more people living downtown – and imagining the ideal environment.

What came out of that event is voluminous – rough, raw and aimed at sparking community discussion as the downtown planning process begins a new phase of citizen review.

“Rather than specific design proposals,” said Sandy Fischer, Winslow Tomorrow project manager, “the illustrations should be viewed as a point of departure for further community dialogue about the island’s future.”

Winslow Tomorrow is presenting the proposed designs within the context of seven principles that boiled to the top of the charrette process.

Central to any discussion of the island’s commercial core is parking, and the question has been addressed from the first days of Winslow Tomorrow.

“One of the questions we asked is whether there is even a parking problem,” said Bill Luria, who served on Winslow Tomorrow’s parking committee. “If there is a problem, what constitutes it? Is it that the locations don’t work? Is it that there’s not enough parking? Are existing development regulations for parking hampering businesses?”

In response to such concerns, charrette partipants emerged with a goal of ensuring that parking downtown is plentiful and accessible, at the same time supporting social interaction, economic diversity and safe travel.

Architect Charlie Wenzlau believes a multi-level parking garage cut into the bank behind businesses on Winslow Way’s north side could tackle a number of parking challenges.

“The idea of a communal parking garage makes a lot of sense,” he said, referring to one drawing produced by designers. “It would help us keep the continuous pattern of storefronts rather than have people build bigger.”

Wenzlau fears growing Winslow Way businesses may opt for wider buildings to incorporate underground parking.

“If we don’t provide a parking solution, we’ll find owners eventually selling and building bigger to allow for ramps and underground space,” he said.

While advocating a multi-floor parking facility, Wenzlau cautions that such a building could have a big visual impact on downtown. He said incorporating retail and residential units around a parking garage could screen and break up a large parking garage’s stature and imposing presence.

Overlapping parking areas with sidewalks could make downtown’s main strip more pleasant and safe for pedestrians.

In one image, Winslow Way’s street-level, asphalt parking area was replaced with paved tiles. Automobiles would still park head-in as they do now, but as spots are vacated, pedestrian space would expand. Wider sidewalks would narrow the visual width of traffic lanes, encouraging drivers to travel slower.

“It would really reduce the auto presence on Winslow Way and make it more pedestrian friendly,” Wenzlau said. “It would also make use more flexible and parts could be closed off for street fairs.”

Not all parking designs were met with widespread support.

One illustration depicts parking down the center of the street; this option would bring moving cars closer to pedestrians, Wenzlau said.

“One reason we have cars parked along side the sidewalks is to protect pedestrians,” he said. “This design would bring automobiles right along the sidewalk, making it like Madison Avenue, which is a very different experience to walk than Winslow Way.”

But architect Miles Yanick’s said his intent with the center-street parking design was to give pedestrians and shops precedence over cars.

“What do you see right now when you go down Winslow Way?” he asked. “The butts of cars and tailpipes.”

The design also aims to remove delivery vehicles from the middle of the roadway. A large delivery truck is shown in the illustration’s upper right corner, separated from traffic lanes.

Yanick said center lane parking has worked well for downtown Bellingham and many small midwestern towns.

“Right now, delivery vehicles are in the driving lane,” Yanick said. “I wanted to pull them out of there and into parking areas.”

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Downtown visions

This is the first in a series of articles examining the results of the Winslow Tomorrow design charrette, and how the principles that emerged from that event may inform the downtown planning process. Today: parking.

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