Opinion

Bigger, taller, perhaps even a bit better

The buildings were taller, the plazas wider, the streets

implicitly a bit more bustling. And, as we recall, there was a walkway or bridge over the highway.

But perhaps the most radical aspect of the vision espoused in the recent Winslow design charrette – which represented the work of architects, planners, conservationists and other island stakeholders through a two-day workshop – was how much the downtown of the tomorrow might look and function like the downtown of today.

“I don’t think Winslow needs to be changed, so much as nudged, and pushed a little bit here and there,” commented Bill Johnson, a noted architect, evaluating the results of the charrette. “Take the things that are already here and build on them.”

Miller was among the visionaries who participated in the design workshop as part of the Winslow Tomorrow downtown planning effort; the results were presented Saturday at the Pavilion to a good public turnout. (A tape of the event will be airing on BIB channel 12 in the coming days, so watch for it. We believe the drawings are available for review in City Hall, and perhaps the slide presentation can be made available on the city’s website?)

In one sense, there wasn’t a whole lot to report from the morning event; the presentation didn’t deal much with specifics, because the drawings were, at best, conceptual. Given the chance to flex their pencils, architects responded with an array of fanciful concepts that suggested a more densely populated yet decidedly people-scaled urban core.

Perhaps most intriguing were the common themes distilled from those drawings, concepts that were presented in turns by members of each design team. As these principles are likely to inform the planning of future public works projects and infrastructure, and the evaluation of proposals by private parties as Winslow redevelops, they’re worth putting forth for consideration:

• A growing downtown evolves, and isn’t stagnant.

• Winslow should be a pedestrian-friendly place.

• The city should promote “connectivity and access for all.”

• Parking should be plentiful and accessible, and yet supportive of all other principles.

• Downtown should have a variety of green, open and gathering places, to reinforce the idea of Winslow as our “community living room.”

• Bring the harbor to the town and the town to the harbor. Find ways to unite Winslow Way and the waterfront, through pedestrian or visual corridors.

• The city should regulate so as to stimulate investment, and be an active partner with investors who will create what the community wants.

Nothing too objectionable there, we should think, for even the most strident of change-o-phobes. In fact, it would be fair to say the exercise furthered the notion that our island community can best deal with the future by actively engaging change up front. A taller downtown is nothing to fear, as long as the community has a hand in its design and device.

As Johnson noted, “It’s not so much the buildings, it’s the fabric that connects them.”

Hear, hear. And from here on, our downtown planning effort really starts to get interesting.

Community Events, April 2014

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