Thursday, April 8, 2010

Great City Brown Bag: Revitalizing Pioneer Square

I posted an announcement about this event last week, as I do every so often, but this time I actually went. I've turned over a new leaf in my life.

The event was great: the presentations from the organizers were short and sweet and the charette was fantastic. The turnout was great and consisted of people with diverse backgrounds (planners, architects, an employee from Cleanscapes, a planner from vulcan, residents, students, etc.).

We were asked to brainstorm ideas for activating Pioneer Square, both temporarily and permanently. The ideas were myriad -- and I will post them as soon as I get the email with a rundown -- but my personal contributions were:

1.) Demolish the 'sinking ship' garage.
2.) Try to cultivate a paseo culture (leisurely walk), like they do in Spain.
3.) Bring in a few national chain outlets to take up residence in empty retail spaces. I know, I know, this actually goes against pretty much everything I believe in, but I recently saw it in NYC and Philly and was amazed. Sure, local is better, but a few anchors might serve the neighborhood well. The goal here is to kill urban malls -- Pacific Place and Westlake, though the latter is almost dead -- and bring shoppers back out on the streets.

(Barnes and Noble in a beautiful old building next to Jane Jacobs' celebrated Rittenhouse Square)

4.) Encourage some sort of light manufacturing (furniture building, perhaps?) that could create jobs in the area, possibly for the transitional population that utilizes the social services in the neighborhood.

I'd like to add that Kevin Daniels was supposed to be there but had to go to New Orleans for a project. While this is understandable, I'd like to point out that, in my experience with developers, this seems to be all too typical. The community side of their business seems to always take a back seat to the business itself. No surprise, I know, but I was disappointed. To be fair, he's somewhat of a hero when it comes to preservation, which is why I expected him to show (but don't forget what Brecht said about heroes...).

All this to say that I'm even a bigger fan of Great City now and will be attending more of their events. I hope you will too.

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