When city officials get together to talk downtown revitalization, they usually come up with big dollar projects such as convention centers, pocket parks, and shopping malls. The topics de jour for downtown are generally projects that look good at a press conference and give the appearance that real work is being done. Too often we miss the small things, the things that really bring together urban neighborhoods. Today, Metro Jacksonville discusses five inexpensive ways we can improve our downtown.
Lighting really shouldn't be on here, but since we don't do it well now, it makes the list. Downtown has a reputation of being unsafe after dark. While this is not true (and crime statistics back this up), poor lighting just perpetuates this reputation. This should be a basic thing, but apparently it's not. How hard is it to regularly change burned out light bulbs? Lighting makes people feel safe when they are walking down a block that happens to be full of vacant buildings and surface parking lots.
Unlike Jacksonville's form over function philosophy, Charleston has purchased simple, yet functional light poles for their downtown. Perhaps if we chose to standarize on a more economical fixture, we could have a few more.
2. Pedestrian Signage
About 10 years ago we invested in automobile-oriented signage, which was good, except that we forgot that we actually have to maintain them Now, how about Pedestrian-Oriented signage? We've talked for years about treating downtown like a mall. Well, when was the last time you were at a mall that didn't have those directory signs? We don't even need anything that detailed, a map with major landmarks would be fine. Rumor has it that this has been on Downtown Vision's plate for a while now. They must be having a design competition, which will lead to a study, which will lead to a task force, which will lead to an implementation committee, which will lead to....well you get the idea.
Pedestrian Signage (like the one above from Chicago) can make people who don't know downtown make people feel at ease.