A recent post from the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City details author Jeff Speck’s suggestions for creating a walkable downtown. Unlike some material on this topic, the post (or at least the part I want to look at) focuses on design issues, rather than on specific things like density, mixed uses, etc.
Speck has four principles that he argues are necessary:
- Create a reason to walk.
- Establish a safe walk (real and perceived).
- Make walks comfortable.
- Design interesting walks.
The post has additional details on each point, but generally Provo could use shorter blocks and more mixed use.
What stands out to me the most, however, is the fourth point about interesting walks:
There should be signs of humanity while people are walking. Aesthetically, invest in streetscapes and artwork. Establish public places for people to convene so they don’t feel as though they are walking simply to and from one place to another. Create a sense of shared environment.
The antithesis of this idea is, in my mind, a typical contemporary tract housing development where the same forms repeat again and again.
But even in central Provo we need to question what we’re doing to make interesting streetscapes. Right now various Provo entities are working to bring more people to downtown, which is wonderful. But frequently, the emphasis is on destinations — things like restaurants, concerts, or theater.
However, if a city wants a vibrant downtown, the journey needs to be as pleasurable as the destination. That happens by designing better routes that are, among other things, viscerally pleasurable.