Tag Archives: Parkside District

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]

Delivering the message

Of which urban pleasure shall I partake today?

Branding and signage are essential aspects of any successful urban environment. The above painting by Jean Beraud, 1882 shows one of the famous Paris kiosks which not only provided advertising space in a newly urbane and consumer society, but provided a strong Parisian brand: when you see this kiosk, you think “Paris street.” Birmingham has not done a good job branding itself–a pity since there are talented graphic designers here, and places worth branding. Reflecting the fact that the city as a whole has struggled with how to project its own image, we are often disappointed by the lack of good, local public-sphere branding around here.  This past couple weeks have brought a few examples to the fore.


First, a couple items that were denied at Design Review Committee last week. The above is a proposed 15 x 20 foot banner (that’s big) to be located on the alley elevation of John’s City Diner on Richard Arrington Blvd. North, advertising the services of City Action Partnership, or CAP. This great organization provides supplemental security and motorist assistance to downtowners–and has certainly been instrumental in making the downtown core one of the safest neighborhoods in the metro. Advantage Marketing presented this design to advertise CAP–but it was sent back to the drawing board for being too incoherent for the average person to understand. The image is confusing; the “Big Wheels” seems to be advertising something else altogether; the font sizes aren’t balanced, etc. CAP does too great a public service; it deserves better design to communicate their mission. And the public deserves something much better to look at.

Begging for identity

Next up in the denial section was the above–a proposed new illuminated sign at the corner pier of Two North Twentieth, the former Bank for Savings Building at the corner of Morris Avenue and 20th St. North. This iconic building from 1962 is the City’s most prominent example of International Style architecture, following in the footsteps of the groundbreaking Lever House on Park Avenue in New York (1952), and a decade of countless copies across the nation (and world). It has never had any signage identifying the building  near ground level (many know it from it’s giant, illuminated advertising marquee on the roof). Not only is the proposed signage uninspired, but it doesn’t even match the building’s logo (itself a tepid, uninspired moniker): “20th” is not spelled out like “Twentieth” which is the actual name. The committee sent this one back to the drawing board too. I hope that a cool, illuminated, and creative solution that works with the rhythm of the concrete panels on the second floor can be devised. This building and this corner need good signage, not haphazard non-design.

Huh? Again

A different kind of mismatch is found at the approach to Railroad Park, where recently banners announcing the Five Points South neighborhood went up. Yes, the Five Points neighborhood stretches all the way north to the railroad tracks. But as a tourist destination and mental construct, Five Points is the area directly around Five Points Circle. It is confusing to say the least, to see these banners when one leaves the new Railroad Park–whose immediate neighborhood has already been envisioned as a distinct entity for redevelopment and marketing purposes (tentatively called Parkside). Showing these banners a dozen blocks away from Five Points Circle is not the right way to go. We should be developing a final name and logo for Parkside (contest, anyone?) and putting those banners up. They can even say in smaller print “part of the greater Five Points Neighborhood” if necessary. Of all areas, this location needs more focused branding, not territorial marking. The money for Five Points banners should be spent on kiosks or other needed items near the Circle itself.

[Sidebar: right across the railroad tracks the Fountain Heights neighborhood extends all the way from the bungalows north of downtown south to the edge of Railroad Park. But does anyone really consider, besides City committees and attorneys, McWane Center to be part of Fountain Heights? Of course not, it’s in central downtown and desperately needs its own sub-neighborhood brand.]

Please, please, I'm desperate for proper branding

Which brings us to our last comment: just like the new neighborhood around Railroad Park that deserves its own brand, other parts of central downtown are long overdue for the same. Other cities large and small–from Portland to Austin to little ol’ Mobile–have branded neighborhoods downtown to great effect: banners and publications use the logos, people say “I’m headed down to —” or “great new lofts are opening in —“. Here all we get is a vague “downtown” or “loft district”–fairly indistinct terms. Just look at what passes for branding in the so-called “loft district” above–signs put up perhaps in the early 1990’s which, in a classic branding nightmare, state “Historic District” with the words “Arts” “Business” and Lofts” interchangeably used on different faces. Which Historic District? Business??? Really? These terms are meaningless. The 2nd Avenue sub-district needs boundaries, a logo, and a name. Downtown should be sectioned off so that lofts east and north of Morris are in NoMo; those west of 20th are in West Central, etc. I am just making up these names–branding experts do this sort of thing much better and all the time. We need to make it happen soon.

Whether neighborhood or building signage, this City needs to demand better branding. It’s one of those things that you take for granted until you see how much sharper it can be in travels to different cities. We have the local talent. There are great examples around of their work. We just need much more. Employ them!

Stay tuned for a post on some of the great public-sphere signage that we do have around here.

[thanks to mbell1975 for the Paris kiosk pic]