This weekend I spent a couple of days in Escondido California. Much like Provo, Escondido has a historic downtown, as well as a similar population size and density. Escondido is, however, wealthier and has a higher average age than Provo.
Anyway, the two cities could learn a lot from each other, and some of the things I observed in Escondido would make fine additions to Provo. It’s worth noting here that downtown Escondido is both geographically larger as well as more sprawling than the more compact downtown Provo. It also seems to have a slightly low retail vacancy rate and slightly more foot traffic. Below I’ve include a few pictures I took when I had a chance to wander around downtown Escondido for a while.
Fittingly for a city in Southern California, Escondido has a lot of outdoor seating at downtown restaurants. Provo has considerably expanded outdoor seating recently — eaters can now sit outside at Gloria's Little Italy, Gurus, Station 22, etc. — but in Escondido most outdoor seating was surrounded by iron fencing. Sitting outside at Gloria's can feel bit awkward because it's so exposed to the rest of the sidewalk. However, a setup like the one pictured allows restaurants to take advantage of outdoor seating while still creating intimate and comfortable spaces.
Downtown Escondido has a higher speed limit than Center Street in Provo. The center median on this street is also much smaller than the one in Provo. The result is that downtown Escondido feels like a busier, less inviting street to walk on. The street in this picture also has many trees, but they appear to be younger — or at least smaller — than the ones in Provo.
This picture turned out a little blurry, but those are speakers mounted to a light pole. They help create a more convivial atmosphere, especially during Escondido's "Cruising Grand" event, which brings in classic cars — as well as crowds and their money — every Friday during the spring and summer.
Downtown Escondido has a bunch of cool bike racks like this one.
Parking in downtown Provo is a breeze and requires very minimal effort. However, people always complain about parking so perhaps the area could use more signs like this one in Escondido. These sorts of signs are strategically placed all around downtown Escondido. And unlike this one not all of them are partially obscured by trees.
Downtown Escondido has a publicly operated art gallery.
Downtown Escondido used to have a museum call the Mingei. It wasn't my absolute favorite museum in the world, but considering its location in a quiet San Diego suburb, it was really quite remarkable. Unfortunately, the museum closed "due to the uncertainty of the current economic climate and lack of sustained patronage." I that's think is a sad commentary on the relatively wealthy surrounding community.
Big street markers aid in wayfinding by identifying streets and by serving as visual landmarks.
Downtown Escondido has many bars, which seemingly are patronized by decent, respectable-seeming people. This particular bar served drinks through a window onto the sidewalk.
Like parts of Provo, downtown Escondido suffers from big, wide streets and intermittent ugly buildings. Neither of those elements are particularly conducive to walking.
Next time someone starts trash-talking downtown Provo, point out that at least none of its buildings are overrun by swarming bees, as was the case in downtown Escondido.