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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Three wishes

Well it seems as though my last post brought up some people's wishes for downtown, and what they want to happen. So, I thought I would throw it all out there and ask everyone to comment on what their Top 3 wishes for downtown are. They could be anything, from development projects, to culture changes, to new/different laws, etc. Go wild...I want to hear from you.

I'll start with my Top 3 in no particular order:

1. The creation of a transportation hub along 2nd St (as has been proposed). This could be a hub for light rail, streetcar, bus, bike and have tie-ins to the potential high-speed rail system in Ohio and the Midwest. Why is this in my top three...well great urban centers are the center of cultural, economical, political and transportation services (to name a few). Cincinnati fairs quite well in most of these...and is quite honestly the center of transportation services for the region...but it is a sad system of services to say the least. So my wish for downtown is kind of a cop out wish for the entire region (but it's my blog and I can do it).

2. How about an open-container policy for downtown. Now I understand that you need to restrict it create some sort of open-container district based on the location of the popular bars/clubs downtown. You could even have more than one district...and in those districts vehicular traffic could be closed off. This would give downtown a huge advantage over all of the other bar/club districts in the region and really make it a hot spot for activity after the sun goes down.

3. ZERO parking requirement...yes, you heard me right. No parking requirements. This is obviously a controversial proposal, but it has the potential to pay off big time with massive downtown development. This is one of those rare occasions where I think government is out of its element by mandating parking.

If a business or developer thinks that their project can succeed with less parking, no parking, or more parking then let them make that call. My bet is that people will error on the side of less parking, but if you want to sell condos and market them with 2 spaces then you'll build your two spaces per units...but if you think you can do it with only one space per unit, then go for it. This could potentially lower the upfront costs of many developments that eventually are killed by the costs of parking.

So have at it and let me know what your wishes are, and what you think of my brilliant ideas.


Anonymous said...

Clearly, the most obvious thing that downtown needs is a Trader Joes, Whole Foods or Fresh Market type of grocery store. A store such as this would cater to the demographic that downtown is trying to attract.

I have some real problems with the three you came up with. Nothing personal, but let's take a look:

[1]. There's a transportation hub only a few blocks away already - it's called government square. Let's focus on what we *don't* have in walking distance (a substantial grocery). Besides, a little walking will do some serious good for many of this cities overweight citizens.

[2]. Give me a break. Just what downtown needs: more drunk, out of control people. Don't get me wrong: I'm a fan of alcohol. The city has plenty of bars; we need to now take the focus off of "getting drunk" (especially on the street) and see if we can bring people down here for other reasons. For instance, why do I have to cross the river to go enjoy hanging out at a bookstore over a cup of coffee? Brentano's doesn't count. If this city wants to lure intelligent people, it's going to have to provide things like this.

[3]. How many cities do you know where this happens? If there is a reason for people to come downtown, they will pay. (Besides, parking here is unbelievably cheap comapred to other cities.) Downtown Cincinnati has improved ten-fold in the last year that I've lived here, but it still has a LONG way to go. Free parking is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

@unclerando, @anonymous

I think a grocery downtown is very important. Go into the Rookwood Wild Oats at lunch, and it has a very busy lunch crowd. The downtown lunch crowd should be a bonus to any grocery that wants to open up shop.

I think the region wants a Main St. 2.0. Louisville's "4th street Live!" has a limited open container policy and multiple bars that create an excellent entertainment district. Something similar could be successful here.

If the parking requirements are a barrier to development, then why have them? If people are willing to purchase a condo with limited or no parking, then by all means they should be allowed to do so.

Randy Simes said...

Anonymous #1:

I didn't say to have free parking...I said to remove the government regulations for parking requirements. If you're building a condo development you have to provide X number of spaces per unit or per square footage for retail/office uses. I'm just suggessting that we let the private sector work that one out and not try to play over-controling parent.

Secondly, yes Government Square is a transit hub...but it is not capable of being linked to any future light rail...nor does it have the room to properly accomodate a major streetcar stop. It would have to be broken up from the main station (along 5th) and wrap around onto Main. would be nice if names were tied to comments for clarity purposes.

Anonymous said...

As far as parking... Would it be ridiculous to either erase fees or cut them in half at the Broadway Commons Lot? Its cheap now, but lets be honest, those lots are just open wasteland. until they decide to do something constructive with the land, people should be able to park there for next to nothing... I know, a little off topic, but seriously.

Anonymous said...

I only have one major wish for downtown, and it's pretty much exactly what you laid out in #1. The only thing I would add is that I hope those of us in KY aren't forgotten when this happens. This region has a tremendous mental divide (and to a lesser extent even NKY has this problem with the Licking River), where people on both sides of the Ohio River tend to write off everyone on the other shore. I really hope that a fully functional transit system can one day connect Downtown Cincinnati with Newport, Covington, the Airport, UC, Xavier, NKU, Union Terminal, etc, but I fear that Cincy will build theirs and/or NKY will build their own and we'll have a less than ideal transit system that doesn't truly connect the major residential and recreational urban areas of this region.

That said, I think if a well thought out rail system were added (even just the streetcars that I hope everyone hasn't forgotten about) it would go a long way towards fixing the problems that downtown has traditionally suffered, as well as making your wish #3 more feasible.

Ryan R. Dlugosz said...

These (and any) ideas are good ones. Not everyone will agree with them, but no one can argue the fact that people discussing this is an overall good thing. I do agree that the grocery access issue is a major problem... can't Kroger open a store in the first level of its tower? They've already got a sign on the building - now they just need some shopping carts. And Freezers. Oh - and those cool self-checkout things.

If I had to pick the one thing that needs to be "fixed" downtown is the Fear Factor. The major complaint I hear about going downtown is that they don't want to be harassed by people begging for money. Say what you will of the situation, but the fact of the matter is that people don't like this & would rather visit places where they don't need to deal with it.

5chw4r7z said...

My #1) would be the streetcar, I feel that will be the thing that ties all the other advances Cincinnati has make together.

#2)Once the streetcar is in place it will solve alot of parking issues. People will be able to park outside of the CBD and only be a couple minutes from their office, or once parked move easily all over the city.
w00t, I can't wait, I've been riding the bus and thinking of selling my car. Hmm, what can I do with an extra $350 a month?

#3)The streetcar may eliminate the need for a grocer in the CBD and maybe Findley will explode with residents puring in to buy fresh supplies.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think the open container idea is fantastic. I hadn't thought of it. Plus, it will make new bars that cannot have outdoor seating more competititive, and able to hang with places like the Cadillac Ranch.

Streetcars are a must - and I agree that they may at least somewhat alleviate the need for a downtown grocer, though that would spur huge development.

The other thing I think it needs is more green space on the western side of Downtown. The eastern side has Lytle, Friendship, Bicentennial and P&G parks. The western side has Garfield (not really much of a park) and that's it unless I'm missing something. Where are all these people that are to move into the western side (Parker Flats, etc.) supposed to walk dogs, relax, etc.?

Randy Simes said...

^You're right about the western downtown park thing...I think that the surface lot at 4th and Plum would be a great spot. It's right in the heart of that residential hotspot, and would be a perfect size for a little neighborhood park for that part of downtown.

Radarman said...

These are really wonkish wishes, but they're genuine.
1. Roundabouts
Roundabouts calm the traffic and save gas. They confuse the stupid, but what else is new?
2. Crosswalk supremacy
In New England motorists are required by rigidly enforced law to stop for pedestrians in a marked crosswalk. The crosswalks are kept sharply striped.
3. Bicycle lanes
Instead of easing the exit of suburbanites from the city, traffic engineering should ease and encourage the use of bicycles by the use of large, clearly marked bicycle lanes.

These are low cost items that would change ways of thinkings about whom the city belongs to and why. Circuits would blow out at City Hall, and that would be a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Also, in Portland they have some of their streets (SW Morrison is one of these) closed to vehicles to allow their light rail line to cut through the city and connect with their street car line. This creates an avenue that attracts pedestrians, and because one recessed train track is much narrower than a four-lane road adjacent bars & restaurants have expansive outdoor seating areas that would be impossible on other streets in the city. If something like this were done here in conjunction with the streetcar plan that is being discussed, it would allow the streetcars to bypass some traffic and might also make your wish #2 of a walkable open-container district a reality.

Anonymous said...

"3. Bicycle lanes
Instead of easing the exit of suburbanites from the city, traffic engineering should ease and encourage the use of bicycles by the use of large, clearly marked bicycle lanes."

I'm not crazy about bicycle lanes. I mean, in theory, I support the idea of people leaving cars behind, getting more excercise, helping the environment, etc. But while driving in Chicago and Portland where many people ride bikes in lieu of driving cars, I've found that bicyclists are notorious for running stop signs & traffic lights, as well as ignoring the boundaries of their lanes. I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea, but having more bikes on the street isn't something I'm yearning for either.

Randy Simes said...

"1. Roundabouts
Roundabouts calm the traffic and save gas. They confuse the stupid, but what else is new?"

I too love roundabouts, and think that they are great traffic calming tools...however it would be extremely difficult to use them downtown. They require more space than a typical 4-way stop, and would therefore require buildings to be wrecked and/or modified.

Maybe a nice one or two of them could be worked out near gateways into the downtown area (Central Parkway & Central Ave)...but it would be a stretch even there. Interesting thought though.

Anonymous said...

1. I think having that a Wal Mart would be great for downtown. Everyone could then live and shop for everything they need downtown. I was at Court Street recently and I think they could tear down alot of those old buildings and build a cool WalMart on top of a parking garage and that would be really cool.

2. If we could get another jail downtown that would be cool too. that would get rid of all the bad people and it would be great to fill in a parking lot with something good for the city.

3. I think that Hard Rock Cafe should go there to because it would bring people from all over the place and they would come from Indy and Dayton and Columbus, and Lexington to go the best restaurant in the world. Maybe we can even have a planet hollywood...that would be neat.

Anonymous said...

^ Love it! And a strip center would look great where the Cincinnatian Hotel is!

Anonymous said...

Walmart? hahaha How do you feel about that Uncle Rando?

Sean F. said...

besides what has already been hashed out, i think downtown could take control of the entertainment development for the region by doing one simple thing: make a downtown district where bars can stay open until 4am. what bar would want to open anywhere else? it would be an easy way to create a dense entertainment district.

CityKin said...

I really would like to see the streetcar get up to Clifton and across the river. I also would like to see light rail (subway or at grade dedicated right-of-way), but I am too old and don't know if I will live long enough to see that happen.

Other than that, I just want to see lots and lots of people, including families living in Downtown/OTR.

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