Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Will Be Done On Main & Vine St

So, here we are in the middle of the downtown streetscape redo and I don't think that anyone has any ideas for moving ahead once it is finished.

To be fair we have only begun Phase 1 of the Main St project and there are existing restaurants waiting for the work to be completed so that they can benefit from it. The Limestone to Upper St portion will see much activity, but what about that part in front of the Lexington History Museum (aka the Old Court House) and Cheapside Park. That location already has a wide sidewalk and rarely a pedestrian traffic congestion problem. Would the local eateries be able to extend that far from the their kitchens. The History Museum primarily uses the entrance on Short so this would be like their "back door", and the monuments don't make for good company to diners.

The section from Cheapside to Mill would make a nice transition into a talked about pedestrian mall but I don't see anything like that being prepared for. And the Marketplace block (aka the Festival Market that some call a fiasco) really did drop the ball from the beginning by not having any ground-floor, street entrance food type retail. Sawyer's and the others on around the corner up Broadway show that it can be done, but is there any move toward that thought now?

On the South side of the street, moving in the same direction, is of course the CentrePointe block and I know that many of you will say that this will never get built, but the original plans called for almost a mirror of the uses across the street. If anything does get built on the block i would guess that we would not let an opportunity like this pass.

The section from Hugo's to the Fifth Third Building has very little potential in its current state and leaves a lot to be desired just like the following block. This block, with the World Trade Center, parking garage and the hotel, has little or no probability of increased sidewalk usage but switching the ground floor office to retail or eatery uses will do wonders for the possibilities.

The Vine St project will tend to soften the speedway image of the existing street, but the daily foot traffic along these four blocks will have to increase greatly in order to make it worthwhile.

Working back toward limestone from Broadway, the first block has only two possible street front retail locations, the hotel bar/streetcafe and the vacant office at Mill St. Actually the entire Mill St frontage is prime for some sort of street-based food or retail, what with the overhangs and all, and that would tie nicely with the aforementioned pedestrian mall. The Kinkead Tower building has no public -friendly space along the whole of its Vine St frontage and unless something is done the idea of widening the sidewalk there is a waste of time and money.

The next block has been a disaster since it was redone during the Urban Renewal era years ago. The PNC Building (originally built as the Citizens Union Bank aka the "Gold Bank") started out with a nice plaza area along Vine St, with several shady trees and benches to go along with the sheltered space over the ground floor entrance. These amenities were removed when they began to be used as intended so that now that space is just dead public space. Increasing such a "dead space" without some anticipated new use invites ridicule. The only thing worse could be its near mirror "dead space" across the street at the Vine St face of the Fifth Third tower and its adjacent parking garage. Luckily the small office building on the corner of Upper and the access way to the rear of McCarthy's could allow the bars patrons to have some sidewalk cafe possibilities in the future.

Finally, the CentrePointe block's Vine St side and the south side of the street leave just the restaurant at the corner of Limestone as a bright spot of downtown activity. That is a whole lot of area to cover and a lot of money spent to have nobody speaking of how they would like to use the space.

Can I hear some suggestions?


lexdan said...

The new Limestone looks great. The new sidewalks downtown will be a big improvement. I am skeptical of the big covered farmer's market by the old courthouse but it might work out okay. Lots of nice new stuff has gone into down town.

As for Vine Street, I wish I had some ideas. Vine Street is a disaster. I remember the master plan for downtown from the DDA once calling for making it a two way boulevard. That would certainly make it look a lot nicer. Maybe the Newtown Pike extension will relieve enough traffic from downtown that this is feasible. Downtown is great and South Hill has undergone a renaissance. Vine St is like a big gash separating the two. Ugh.

Streetsweeper said...

The Downtown Master Plan has been changed since the Council has asked that the streetscape work be done in such a way as to not preclude two-way traffic on Vine. The linear park is still in the picture but pushed to the north side of the street and probably involving little or no grass/greenspace. That will make quite a park, in my mind.

My point is, now that we have spent this money for beautification (again!) how will we use it, or at least like it to be used. Downtown Louisville can use theirs and downtown DC used theirs to the max, why can't we do the same?