Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Viral Media went Viral

Wow. Never thought the Main Street Garden post would generate as much positive and negative comments as it did. Look I love that the park was built. Frankly, the quibbles regarding what is inside the park is really superficial. It's ephemera. My concern is the connection between the park and the streets adjacent, as well as the built fabric.

I was also asked to comment on the Woodall Rogers Park which is not yet built, but everyone knows about it. My response here:

As for what is within the Freeway Deck Park...I think what is within the design is all well and good. However, my concerns with it are a bit broader, generally more global issues outside of the actual scope of the park design:
  • First, closing of Harwood (or Olive - whichever it is - I'm terrible with road names) through the park is a mistake. I understand the desire for a larger lawn area, but for a park where the fundamental purpose is connectivity, it is a mistake to reduce the amount of connectors so that a full 11 on 11 football game can be played in a downtown that is so thoroughly cut off from its adjacent neighborhoods by the inner highway loop. Limiting the amount of vehicular connections will apply too much vehicular pressure on the few access roads that do exist, further eroding the public realm as well as instill greater impetus to the private development along those few roads to respond to increased "car demand," for lack of a better term.
  • Second, the streetcar plan is bothersome to me, in that it cuts short the existing M-Line at the park to make its phase 1 loop between the convention center and the arts district. This shows a fundamental lack of understanding of how transit can be leveraged for positive, urban, economic development and how streetcars, in particular, function as transport for inner ring workers to get to office space downtown. Under the current plan, if somebody in uptown wants to check out a new restaurant in Bishop Arts district, they will have to make two or three connections to do so which will prevent people from ever making the trip without the car. All meaning that the streetcar effort will be little more than a tourist trap.
  • Third, the point of the park is to link downtown and ideally make everyone forget that they happen to be standing over essentially a death trap freeway. While it may be a novelty at first, that awareness will never be overcome as the freeway rises on both sides of the park as to become visible. There should be some thinking down the line of getting the air rights from TxDOT to be able to add buildings at each end of the park to create some enclosure, pedestrianize the Pearl and St.Paul as well as further enhance the stitching back together of uptown and downtown. Even if it would be one-story retail buildings with extremely narrow depths, anything would help...except for giant walls, which is what the Winspear is building on the back side of its building toward the freeway and frontage road, which ideally would become part of the urban grid rather than and on/off ramp as it is now.
  • I guess my only other potential regret is how little interaction the parcels adjacent will have towards the park, but like all things urban, some of these are at least in transition and will help add to the parks character when they develop.