“We have a way to make successes out of the unsuccessful. But first we have to be frank about a subject that we would all too often rather ignore.” — Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers
A city’s reputation depends largely on two factors: the airport and downtown. — Jeff Speck (paraphrased), City Planner and author of Walkable City, speaking at the Urban Tactics Symposium as part of Phoenix Urban Design Week
When I finished the book, Walkable City by Jeff Speck, my head spun with ideas after his last chapter encouraged us to pick the winners in our cities: finding places where the least money can make the most difference.
Speck advises to focus on improving streets already formed by buildings, with the potential to attract and sustain street life. In essence, low-hanging fruit.
For example, we could put Central Avenue on a road diet and add bike lanes.* Maybe the missing teeth in the Roosevelt Row area could be filled with more art, community gardens, shaded meeting spaces, and fitness structures like pull-up bars. Or, perhaps Downtown could finally get an easily accessible grocery store. Combine that with more market-rate housing and you’ve got yourself some nice building blocks.
Originally, I intended this article to focus and elaborate on those ideas. I was going to pick a few areas in the city that were almost there, and explain the little projects that could be done to make them sustain street life. But not so fast.