Sunday, January 3, 2021

Shared Streets and Street Decor

When the team of Arterial, Street Plans, and Creighton Manning was chosen back in October 2019 to carry out the connectivity project in the BRIDGE District, now known as "Hudson Connects," the assignment was all about creating streets that could be safely shared by pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. The association of one of the principals on the team, Mike Lydon, with "tactical urbanism" seemed to weight heavily in the selection process.

In July, there was a walking tour and a workshop to gather input from the community. The presentation from that first workshop can be viewed here. In August, there was an open house at the entrance to Promenade Hill, involving both Arterial et al. and Starr Whitehouse, the landscape architects working on the redesign of the entrance to Promenade Hill. At the event, the two design concepts for Promenade Hill presented by Starr Whitehouse--The Meander and The Terrace--seemed to get the lion's share of attention. 

In October, Arterial did its Hudson Connects Demonstration Project at Second and State streets and at Warren and Front, using paint to test such concepts as curb extensions and sidewalks. That was followed up by a survey to gauge the public's response to the demonstration project.

At the last meeting of the Common Council, which took place on December 15, James Ribaudo of Arterial presented the proposed plans for the Hudson Connects project. That forty-minute presentation can be viewed here. It begins at 5:08 and ends at 46:10. Gossips recommends that everyone view the presentation. The following are renderings from the presentation of the intersection at Warren Street and Front Street, destined to become the crown jewel of Hudson intersections.

The design concepts to be introduced in the BRIDGE District will eventually, we are told, be implemented throughout the city. That's a very far-reaching impact, but the public is being given very little opportunity to react to what is being proposed. Up to this point in the process, public participation--the walking tour, the workshops, the survey--have focused on accessibility, walkability, safety, connectivity. Now we are seeing plans that will have a significant impact on the character and the aesthetic of the city, and there seems to be no plan for soliciting public response. Gossips inquired about how people could submit comments about the plans and was told that comments could be directed to mayor's aide Michael Chameides:

Arterial is expected to make a second presentation to the Common Council on Monday, January 11, and they anticipate submitting the final plans on January 29. 

Compare the process with that was followed in the development of the plans for the entrance to Promenade Hill. In July, Starr Whitehouse held an initial workshop at which participants were asked to react to preliminary concept designs and possible materials. In August, there was a second outdoor workshop, at which Starr Whitehouse presented two design concepts--The Meander and The Terrace--and sought community input, both in person at the workshop and through an online survey. In October, in a presentation to the Common Council which was not adequately announced, Starr Whitehouse presented their final plan, which, because there was no clear favorite between the two original concepts, combined the elements people liked best from each of the two designs. Based on comments from the Council, the design was slightly tweaked, and on December 4, the final design was presented to the Historic Preservation Commission for review.

The HPC is holding a public hearing on the design for what's now being called the "Lower Promenade" this coming Friday, January 8, at 10:00 a.m., providing yet another chance for the public to comment on the proposed design. No such opportunities are being offered for the public to comment on the materials, street furniture, plantings, or any of the design elements that contribute to the aesthetic of what Arterial is proposing.      

The justification for an HPC review of the plans for Promenade Hill is that the site is in located in the National Register Front Street-Parade Hill-Lower Warren Street Historic District. By the same token, more than half of the BRIDGE District is in a National Register and locally designated historic district. The materials used for sidewalks, the choice of street furniture, the plans for plantings and signage will have an enormous impact on the appearance and character of the city, and the decision making regarding these things should be a more public process. 

Back in 2008, when the City was selecting luminaires for the new lamp posts along Warren Street, the HPC was called upon to make the choice. It would seem that a review by the HPC of the Arterial plans is also in order, particularly if there is to be so little effort to solicit public comment on what is being proposed.


  1. My main concern is traffic visibility. Anyone driving West on Warren approaches the Warren and Front intersection with the challenge to see traffic entering the intersection from S.Front. Any change to the intersection should include a traffic light to replace stop signs. A pedestrian crosswalk with walk/don’t walk signals will greatly improve safety. Well the other “stuff” just is not a wise choice for the Historical significance of the area. It makes me wonder if planners/designers actually do their research before starting with a clean CAD venue. Hang in there St. Winifred.

  2. I love their designs, and am excited to see the city moving on a truly usable city.

    1. The designs are fantastic. But would be better placed at the riverfront park area or at a BEW playground at the end of N.Front St. There are two empty lots there and is a great place for bold new ideas to excite the dull area for residents aka children that live in the area.
      As they say imho....wasn’t it great when people spoke to one another in person or on the phone.
      Hope I live long enough to see the next phase....brain signals to an individual or....