Urban Connectivity: Winter Park

February 21, 2011 21 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a look at connectivity and clustering complementing uses within a compact pedestrian friendly setting: Winter Park

Stimulating downtown vibrancy and redevelopment isn't rocket science.  It's also not a necessity to spend millions on large gimmicky projects to get things turned around.  In reality, the key to downtown vibrancy revolves around the idea of clustering complementing uses in a compact pedestrian friendly setting.

Downtown Winter Park is a great example of what can happen when we do the little things right.  Here are five simple affordable concepts that, when combined, can dramatically add life to an urban scene.

Outdoor Seating

People tend to attract people.  When this happens, additional sidewalk foot traffic is created, turning a dead street into a lively active pedestrian zone.  One way to do this is to encourage local restaurants, bars and businesses to include outdoor sidewalk seating.

Spilling Out Onto The Street

A little exposure between the private and public realm can change the complexion of an urban atmosphere.  Businesses should be encouraged to integrate what's inside their walls with street.

Sidewalk Design

Many times we put too much credence into the thought that an expensive streetscape can stimulate pedestrian friendly development.  In reality, a great streetscape has nothing to do with expense landscaping, concrete and brick pavers.  What is most important is to make sure your pedestrian throughfare is carefully buffered from moving automobile traffic and designed to allow for businesses to spill out onto the street without blocking pedestrian movement.  Take the money saved by not overspending on streetscapes and invest it into the maintainance of streets and urban parks.

Active Parks

Urban parks should be places where a variety of activity can take place throughout the day from a diverse range of residents and visitors in terms of age, culture and race.  This requires that the design of a park must consist of more than grass, expensive palm trees and a few benches.  Urban parks should be designed to integrate with their surrounding context, incorporate a mix of active amenities and remain well maintained.

End User Friendly Parking

Visitors to a downtown should not feel intimidated or like they are being punished for visiting.  Being easy to use and understand for the end-user should be the main priority for downtown parking design, both for off-street and parallel parking.

Despite Downtown Jacksonville's decline over the last few decades, the Northbank still has a critical mass of parks, businesses and urban building fabric in place.  Instead of looking to $40 million amusement parks and convention center exhibition halls as the key to downtown's revitalization, work to apply these simple principles to the Northbank and we'll discover that creating life and synergy is much more simplistic and affordable than most believe.

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Winter Park, FL is a city of around 30,000 people located 6 miles northeast of Orlando.

Article and photos by Ennis Davis