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Streetcars, Academy Boulevard and Uncle Sammy

Thu, Jun 10, 2010

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Suppose you were completely broke.  Suppose that your house needed a new roof and a coat of paint.  Suppose that, instead of buying you a bucket of paint, a ladder, and a few square of shingles, your rich Uncle Sammy offered to fund a study that would determine the best color to paint your moldering old dump, the best shingles, when to paint and roof, as well as neighborhood painting and roofing issues.

You might roll your eyes and walk away – but on second thought, you’d humor the old goat and go along with him.  If he’ll fund a study, maybe next time he’ll buy the paint and shingles.

You can only hope – and that’s what the city’s doing, as city staff busies itself with various studies.

They’ve just about wrapped up the streetcar study, which, it is hoped, will bolster the city’s case for federal funding for the construction of a streetcar system.  Next up: The Academy Boulevard Corridor Great Streets plan.

If you’ve never thought of Academy Boulevard as a “great street”, you’re not alone.  The six mile stretch to be studied extends from Maizeland to Drennan.  It doesn’t exactly meet the great streets criteria, as described in the city’s press release.

- Great Streets are representative of their places. A Great Street reflects the neighborhood through which it passes and has a scale and design appropriate to the character of the abutting properties and land uses.

- Great Streets allow people to walk comfortably and safely. The pedestrian environment on, along and near the street is well-designed and well-furnished.

- Great Streets provide mobility. Great Streets strike an appropriate balance among the three elements of modern mobility: through travel, local circulation and access.

- Great Streets facilitate place-making. Great Streets incorporate within them places that are memorable and interesting. These may include plazas, pocket parks, attractive intersections and corners, or simply wide sidewalks fostering an active street life.

- Great Streets are green. Great Streets provide an attractive and refreshing environment by working with natural systems. They incorporate environmentally sensitive design standards and green development techniques.”

Well.  ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished, but one that seems unlikely to be achieved in my lifetime.

Still, it’s hard to argue with the city’s hopeful words.

Re the street car study: “It’s important to plan now for initiatives that will spur economic development and create a livable, walkable, and vibrant city.”

Re the Academy Boulevard study: “This time of economic downturn is exactly when planners should be looking to the future and investing in revitalization of key corridors such as Academy Boulevard.”

Uncle Sammy, are you listening?  We’re studying diligently – so please send us some track, some streetcars, and a few hundred million to transform Academy into a Great Street.

And if you can’t do that, how ‘bout a few gallons of paint?

If you can’t do anything, you can at least study things that might, in some unforeseen, unlooked for, and unlikely.

The City of Colorado Springs is embarking on a study of a six-mile stretch of Academy Boulevard between Maizeland and Drennan roads. The Academy Boulevard Corridor Great Streets Plan is an element of the larger Academy Boulevard Corridor Revitalization Plan.

The study will assess existing characteristics of the corridor and develop a model of future land use alternatives,‛ said Senior Planner Carl Schueler, the City’s project manager. ‚We will also evaluate transportation and transit options for the corridor while developing plans to support ongoing revitalization efforts for the corridor and adjacent commercial properties and neighborhoods.‛

What are Great Streets? The Great Streets web site (www.greatstreets.org) describes them as ‚a new respect for local communities and traditions in how streets are planned, built and maintained. Streets are central to building these new, ‘traditional’ communities because of the critical role they play in creating a unique community identity, healthy business environment and public space for citizens to use and enjoy.‛

Some characteristics of Great Streets include:

- Great Streets are representative of their places. A Great Street reflects the neighborhood through which it passes and has a scale and design appropriate to the character of the abutting properties and land uses.

- Great Streets allow people to walk comfortably and safely. The pedestrian environment on, along and near the street is well-designed and well-furnished.

- Great Streets provide mobility. Great Streets strike an appropriate balance among the three elements of modern mobility: through travel, local circulation and access.

 Great Streets facilitate place-making. Great Streets incorporate within them places that are memorable and interesting. These may include plazas, pocket parks, attractive intersections and corners, or simply wide sidewalks fostering an active street life.

- Great Streets are green. Great Streets provide an attractive and refreshing environment by working with natural systems. They incorporate environmentally sensitive design standards and green development techniques.

Key properties along the corridor will be evaluated, including major commercial business, multi-family and vacant developable properties within a quarter mile of Academy Boulevard. City officials say more than 60,000 people live in the surrounding study area, representing about 15 percent of the City’s population.

The $250,000 study is funded through a Federal Transit Administration grant, designated for planning studies. City officials say this time of economic downturn is exactly when planners should be looking to the future and investing in revitalization of key corridors such as Academy Boulevard.

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