Tag Archives: Manhattan

Cars and people

Heavy emphasis on walking. Not so much on driving

As we await a review of detailed site and design documents for the newly named Regions Field (thus far no presentation has made it to the agenda of the Design Review Committee), it’s worth considering transportation access to this new venue.  In the rendering released at last week’s groundbreaking (above), we see the corner of First Avenue South and 14th Street (the super-graphic faces 14th). Whether by design or not, the rendering is filled with lots of people, but only one car. No bikes or public transit are visible either. One of the first questions, as a matter of course with large, destination sports or entertainment venues is: where do people park?

It's all about providing a connected environment

Part of the answer is seen above, in a shot of the Bricktown entertainment district around the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in downtown Oklahoma City. This former warehouse district has been revitalized into a restaurant and entertainment center around the ball park (note the great reuse of existing historic warehouse structures). There are multiple small lots, and some structured parking, scattered throughout the district; the idea is not to park everyone coming to a game in one attached deck, but rather for fans to find multiple locations to park and enjoy dinner and a stroll before the game. People don’t mind walking a couple blocks as long as the walk is engaging, with lots of pleasant distractions and “window shopping” to be done. This appears to be the strategy at Regions Field, where it’s been determined that within a certain walkable radius of the facility, there’s more than enough on-street and existing parking facilities to handle the fans.

Lots of options across a well-planned district

The map above illustrates the scattered parking plan for the Bricktown district. Needless to say, the plan would be much less attractive if the streets weren’t lined with active, inviting businesses and diversions. Interestingly, the canal you see in blue weaving through the district was built from scratch in 1998 as a tourist attraction to complement the district; the water taxi service along this canal has become quite popular.

It took some vision

This is not to say that water taxis are in the cards for our new Parkside district. But it’s encouraging that the development is going with a scattered parking strategy: this should promote foot traffic throughout the area, spurring additional private development. Now, let’s just get those sidewalks paved around Railroad Park, and some more bike lanes marked, and we’re starting to make this area a model for how cities (and zoning departments) can think outside the dated, 1950’s paradigm of “every facility has to have its own parking”. We can scatter it, share it, and encourage other modes of transit instead.

These boots were made for...

Which brings us to a final note on that oddball city, New York, where zoning laws have been changed for some time to deliberately discourage developers from building on-site parking at their projects. In a fascinating recent article from the New York Times, we learn that in the last 30 years the number of off-street parking spaces in Manhattan has fallen by 20% (and this in a city borough which has gained about 100,000 in population over the same period). Part of the outcome? Well, besides increasingly expensive rents for off-street parking spaces (which routinely fetch over $1000/month), transit ridership is way up, bike lanes have been constructed everywhere–and, of course, people continue to do a lot of walking (midtown intersection, above). New York had the right idea changing its zoning laws. We need to consider the same thing here, in certain areas where it makes sense. This can only enhance the density and diversity of our urban environment. So get those boots on and get ready to walk through Parkside to all the new urban attractions that will soon await us.

[thanks to alanoftulsa for the Bricktown overview pic; babselder for the canal pic; flickr4jazz for the Manhattan pic]

Mapping the future (2)

How green grows my city

In the last post we celebrated the birthday of the Randel map that introduced the modern street grid to Manhattan. That initial map didn’t include Central Park; it was some time later that city leaders realized the potential of a vast new park and ordered Olmsted and Vaux to design it.

Likewise, in Birmingham there was no large central park designed in the initial grid of the city; only smaller parks (such as Linn Park). Large amounts of land were set aside at the railroad tracks as a “Railroad Reservation” for industrial use. Part of that Reservation is now Railroad Park, which is vying for the title of Best New Park for 2011 in the Daily Green‘s online Heart of Green awards: vote for it here.

We are up against some pretty big competitors, including the fantastic (and about to expand) High Line in New York City, so spread the word about this vote! Go parks!

Mapping the future

Just a stroll down Second Avenue

Like many American cities planned in the 19th century, central Birmingham is designed around a rectangular, regular grid system of wide streets and avenues. The most famous example of how an orthogonal grid shaped the future of a city is found in Manhattan, where John Randel presented his map of the island (at that point mainly covered with farms and cow paths) in 1811.

This map, audacious at the time for imagining a pastoral island completely gridded and developed, is the subject of a great article and multimedia piece in the Times.  The above engraving shows how the new streets cut across existing farmland and house lots, often leaving structures in a precarious structural state. New York being New York, these older houses were torn down quickly for new development to accommodate a rapidly growing city.

Happy 200th birthday, NYC grid!

[Pic courtesy New York Times]