Laura and I recently stayed in the Hines Mansion for our anniversary and the experience was charming in almost all the ways a bed and breakfast should be. Our room was beautiful, the breakfast was grand, and the entire home was romantic. I’d highly recommend visiting this historic Provo landmark.
But there was one glaring problem: through no fault of its own, the Hines Mansion is located on 100 South, an absolutely terrible street and one of the least charming places in Provo.
Despite obvious effort to make the interior and grounds of the building quaint and relaxing, much of the charm is subverted by the sea of asphalt outside. This street is particularly odd; there’s not much traffic but it’s extremely wide, with two car lanes, bike lanes, an utterly unnecessary center turn lane, and relatively wide shoulders. This street is obviously getting less use these days now that it’s enclosed by a couple of construction projects, but I never recall seeing it filled to capacity.
100 South isn’t as appalling as Freedom Blvd, but it’s still pretty ugly and a far cry from the kind of setting I envision when I think of a wonderful bed and breakfast. Indeed, the Hines Mansion actually had a coffee table book of other bed and breakfasts, and none of them were surrounded by enormous streets.
Unfortunately, the street is just the beginning of the problem. Looking out from the mansion’s windows visitors are treated to views of two big parking lots, as well as the dilapidated city center.
I know nothing about the financial situation of the Hines Mansion, though I did see it up for sale on a real estate website earlier this year, suggesting it’s not necessarily a cash cow. In any case, assuming it’s not always filled to capacity I think it’s safe to say that this location is one of its biggest challenges. Between the ugly asphalt, the lack of stop signs and the sporadic blight, visitors don’t exactly get a charming view of Provo. It also feels distant from downtown, despite being just a block south of Center Street.
All of this means there are disincentives for people to stay at the Hines Mansion, as well as incentives for visitors to avoid the rest of downtown. That, in turn, means less revenue for local businesses and the city, as well as less positive word of mouth for Provo. There’s really no plus side to this situation and it’s a testament to the Hines staff and owners that the experience was still positive.
Some people will read this post and note that the area surrounding the Hines Mansion will probably improve in coming years. The new LDS temple down the street will likely raise property values and drive new development in this area, making the Hines Mansion a considerably more desirable destination.
But without a larger plan for the street and surrounding area the problems are likely to persist. This entire neighborhood could fill up with ritzy apartments, mansions, high end office space or whatever else and still suffer from over-wide streets and a general indifference toward walkability.
In other words, the city needs to address the design and infrastructure problems if it wants to spur intelligent development and improve the area’s business environment. In the meantime, the Hines Mansion and other surrounding businesses remain the victims of bafflingly bad design.