Friday, October 04, 2013

Crosstown Arc

Itinerant writer's note:  while it's been a long time since the event happened, and since I began this blessed post, and a lot has happened on the street, I believe the observations and ideas are no more full of crap than they were on the day I began them.

Besides enjoying the great spirit and energy of last November's tactical urbanish MEMFix on Cleveland, it was really cool to get a sense of the street with lots people flowing around and through it, on foot, bicycle and car.

It gave a sense of what a vital Cleveland could be, perhaps for the first time ever, and what could keep that from happening.

On one hand, the main strip of shops on either side of Cleveland between Overton Park and Autumn have a single row of parking in front of them, separating them from Cleveland, with lots of curb cuts.

This is the way it's always been at that spot on Cleveland, but the disruption the parked cars and continuous curb cut caused to pedestrian flow and energy was marked at MEMFix.  A major event could be happening at one of those spaces and it's possible that street energy wouldn't change.  Passing walkers, cyclists and motorists might not even notice that something's happening.  Pushing a patio out to the street is a possible solution, as the now defunct Memphis Mary's did.

and the Cleveland Street Flea Market hinted at during MEMFix.

Also, most of the area is single story.  It provides no hovering counterbalance to the off-street parking frontage.

Finally, the large Sears Crosstown surface parking lot is a major discontinuity between the great building and the shops on either side of Cleveland and Autumn (including those on the other side of the pocket park).

The Cleveland/Watkins curve is carved into the parking lot, with the giant building hovering above it as you come from the south, giving it much better energy than your standard surface parking lot.  It also helps that its greatest uses for the past few years have been for public space rather than parking lot.  Still, the parking lot is so massive that I think it's possible that the Sears building could be completely occupied and have no effect on the surrounding buildings.

On a much better hand, MEMFix revealed to me and everyone there what a cool, strong anchor the district already has in the Cleveland Street Flea Market.

 and the visual street energy created, temporarily, by the eccentric triangular crosswalk.

And the pocket park made lively by the excellent bike wheel sculpture.

The literal intersection of these 3 pieces at the center of the Crosstown arc was the ultimate revelation of the day for me.  

This spot is the key to the revitalization of the rest of the area.

With a few changes this corner could activate Crosstown.
  • Make the triangular crosswalk permanent and and even add a light (which I believe is feasible since the only post office left in Midtown is on Autumn).
  • Break off a piece of the Sears parking lot at that corner and give it to someone willing to build a street fronting bar/restaurant.  Or build a semi-permanent cafe site opening to the corner site for food trucks to pull up to.
  • Give more definition to the pocket park via trees or other devices.