The Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference runs today through Friday in Cleveland, Ohio. As part of my scholarship responsibilities, I will be blogging about the conference - I hope to come away with some practical ideas for neighborhood revitalization in Des Moines.
My sessions don't start until this afternoon, so I am taking the morning to accomplish a little bit of work.
I'm staying with some friends in the suburb of Cleveland Heights, adjacent to Case Western Reserve University. In some ways, this area is very much like my own Drake neighborhood in Des Moines. At the end of the street is a small commercial district with a variety of shops (including the Starbucks in which I sit).
Note the simple yet thoughtful pedestrian-friendly elements in this photo:
- Street parking separates the sidewalk from the relatively busy street.
- A regular row of trees helps define the dedicated pedestrian area.
- Brick pavers create an area between the cars and the walking path for amenities like newspaper vending and business signage.
- Buildings are built right up to the sidewalk creating a defined edge.
- Each retail space has a large storefront window.
These are all simple and relatively inexpensive things to do - they don't require major infrastructure improvement, and relatively minimal ongoing maintenance.
And they work. Most of the people in the coffee shop right now appear to have walked here from the surrounding neighborhood. If we create nice places to be, close to the places we live, and comfortable paths to get there, people take advantage of the opportunity.