University Avenue is a wide, imposing street. For much of it’s distance, it’s also faced by rundown shops, parking lots and student housing. With a few notable exceptions, it’s not a great street.
However, it does have a lot of potential, particularly if thought of as a grand boulevard. This story from the LA Times explores that city’s thus far fruitless efforts to create a grand boulevard in downtown. As grand boulevards often are, the idea was informed by Paris’ Champs-Elysees. In LA, the idea basically is to create a grand street as a means of development. And as anyone who has been to the Champs-Elysees or its clones knows, these types of streets can cultivate pleasant strolling environments as well. (Salt Lake City has also toyed with the idea of a grand boulevard.)
Provo’s University Ave would work as a grand boulevard because it already has the space and because it’s already the heart of the city. In many ways it already is a grand boulevard, but without sufficient grandeur.
The point is that Provo should work to grow University into a respectable grand boulevard. I’m not suggesting that the city devote massive resources to this project all at once, but rather that this be a longterm goal. When city leaders think of the kinds of development that will work on University, they should consider that development’s ability to capitalize on University Ave’s grand potential. In the short term, the city could implement comparatively feasible efforts, like planting more uniform trees along University.
Like I mentioned above, this is a long-term goal. I see it being fully realized over the course of several generations spanning at least decades. But right now University Ave is a disaster in many areas. The ramshackle buildings and cracked parking lots are an embarrassment. And in the end, the street already exists; all that remains is our stated intent to make it grand.