Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I was in Grand Junction Colorado last weekend, where they have just finished a two year renovation of the streetscape in their downtown. We were there for a wedding and stayed in a hotel which is on the west end of their Main Street. All of the wedding guests were impressed with the quality of the improvements in the downtown.
The things that really stood out are the use of mini-parks and place-making areas throughout the downtown. They have designed the parks to fit within the flow of the streetscape, locating kid spaces effectively next to restaurant outdoor seating to allow parents to eat while watching their kids play. Some of the parks have built in shading to help protect from the summer heat... that wouldn't be all that useful in most of northern Oregon, but would work well in Southern and Eastern Oregon. There is plenty of space for all of the restaurants on Main Street to provide for outdoor dining, some with larger spaces than others. The restaurants lease the space from the City. One of the restaurateurs told me that in nice weather there will be people waiting in line for the outdoor dining spaces while there is plenty of space indoors.
The City also has a long-standing public art program, with over 100 pieces of outdoor art. The program was established in 1984 by local area sculptors. They display only a portion of their collection at any time and 3/4 of the collection consists of permanent sculpture and the remainder of the exhibit is the annual temporary show. Each year one of the temporary pieces is selected by the citizens as the piece to purchase and add to the permanent exhibit. Not all of it is placed yet in the new streetscape, but you will see many examples in the pictures.
Some of the cities I work with have been interested in the idea of angled parking to provide more parking in their downtown. Grand Junction has used angled parking throughout the downtown, with a safe-harbor pull out area which is not in the travel lane. Obviously, you can only do this if you have exceptionally wide streets, but it provides the safety that everyone worries about with angled parking.
Grand Junction has added variety to their streetscape with different shapes for planters and small brick curved seating areas, providing for a fun feel in the downtown. Browse the pictures on the link to see some examples of an extremely inviting downtown.
And yes, this was all accomplished through financing from urban renewal. Colorado's urban renewal is composed of both property taxes and sales tax revenue collected in the area. I am still researching more on their statutory requirements.