April 23, 2006

What Killed a Phoenix Neighborhood Business District?

"The 1970s were cruel to the Melrose neighborhood's stretch of north Seventh Avenue: The street was widened," begins an article in the Arizona Republic about the area's renovation. "Seventh Avenue, Councilman Tom Simplot said, became a minifreeway."

It's a cautionary tale for what not to do when faced with traffic problems in a downtown business district. Improving through-traffic flow cannot be planners' sole focus when roads go through retail districts.

Today, though, Melrose is coming back, the Republic says -- in part because "over the past several years, federal funding has been used for streetscape improvements to create a pedestrian friendly feeling for the shopping district within the well-traveled thoroughfare."

That means things like "shade structures," benches, outdoor art, and planned outdoor patios for restaurants.

Designing solely for cars, without also ensuring an attractive, appealing pedestrian streetscape, is usually a recipe for disaster in a neighborhood business district.

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