Comments are welcome (positive or negative), but any self-advertisements or irrelevant posts will be deleted.

No new posts are being added to this blog. For planning news and updates, check out The BIG Picture Huntsville (also on Facebook). For transportation info, check out the Huntsville Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Park Place, Cleveland Avenue Going 'Uptown'

In a rare instance of public participation in planning projects in our region, the people behind the Park Place redevelopment in North Downtown Uptown held three meetings ("charrettes" in planner-speak) this month to discuss plans for a streetscape improvement project on Cleveland Avenue. The project will involve relocating Cleveland to the south from Meridian to the skate/dog park to make way for a wide ("meandering") sidewalk, landscaping, and displays of public art. It is expected to begin early next month and be completed before the end of the year.

Some of the ideas brought forward at the meetings included small fountains, murals, and sculpture gardens. The benches that will be placed along the sidewalk will be made from stone salvaged from a pre-Civil War stone wall that was taken out during the Meridian Street widening project. A "convenience store" for bicyclists and skateboarders (who frequent the skate park nearby) is part of the plans as well. Several of the ideas introduced by the public and the developers were shot down due to city zoning regulations. Hopefully the introduction of SmartCode in the near future will relax some of these rules.

This project is rather small in scale, and the biggest problem I see with it is continuity towards surrounding neighborhoods (Downtown, Five Points, Lincoln Mill). That will involve the tedious job of getting each business owner in the area involved, but it's key to the success of this project, along with the infill development of surrounding lots for added vibrancy.

There are separate plans to make the vacant lot across from Park Place into a surface parking lot. It seems kind of ironic that a car-oriented project will be located next to one of the most interesting pedestrian improvement projects this city has seen in a long time. While parking is a necessary evil even in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, it should always be hidden, and use up as little space as possible. The part of the lot closest to the street should be developed, possibly extending the Park Place concept, and if that's not possible right now, leave it as open space, keeping the door open for future opportunities.

This vacant lot, sandwiched between three parks, could be put to much better use than just a surface parking lot.

Developers and planners should take note at the level of public participation in this project. It's sad that these meetings/charrettes don't happen more often here. They should not be something to be afraid of-- there are plenty of great people with great ideas in this city. The problem is getting the word out-- if I can't find out about your meeting, you're not doing enough.

For more info about Park Place, and the streetscape project, visit their website: http://parkplaceplaza.com/


Anonymous said...

I find this exciting. Do wish it were more extensive.

Downtown needs as much development as possible. Cities are judged by their city-centers. Huntsville's is pretty dinky.

Anonymous said...

I would disagree that the empty lot across from Park Place not need be parking. The greenway on the far side has no parking, neither at the Veteran's Park terminus nor at the Pratt avenue end. The playground attached to the Greenway behind the Children's Advocacy Center is unused. I'd suggest some parking in that (currently) gravel lot, with a bridge over to the canal to teh Greenway. Or even have the path go over a bridge and cut off a corner of that lot so you don't have to parallel Meridian to continue on the path.