Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Brief Revisiting of the Silver Spring Mobility District series | Item #10: digital kiosks and the inclusion of community messaging network

These days the Purple Line is in the news because the contractor has provided notice to exit the project, likely as a way to get the State to pony up for the cost of various changes ("Just a reminder that what are called "public private partnerships" are contracts, not partnerships").

The Silver Spring articles the title refers to are a subsection of the multi-part series on leveraging the Purple Line light rail infrastructure program to drive complementary improvements across the transit network as well as to drive transformational projects within the communities served by the new infrastructure as a way to make the transit network more successful from the outset and to get better, greater, and faster return on the public investment in the system.

-- "Setting the stage for the Purple Line light rail line to be an overwhelming success: Part 1 | simultaneously introduce improvements to other elements of the transit network"

The series on Silver Spring grew out of Item #20 in the original list:
Create "sustainable mobility" corridors in Silver Spring (and other places), complementing the new PL.
After that piece, Silver Spring area resident reader Ed Drozd asked me to expand on the point, and at first I thought about this pretty narrowly (for me), with some basic multimodal and urban design enhancements on Fenton Street and Wayne Avenues, which emanate from the light rail station at the new Silver Spring Library.

But I did a lot of site visits and started thinking a lot bigger, culminating in this series, outlining how Montgomery County could leverage the Purple Line as a way to develop "an innovation district" around Silver Spring.

PL #5: Creating a Silver Spring "Sustainable Mobility District"
 -- "Part 1: Setting the stage"
-- "Part 2: Program items 1- 9"
-- "Part 3: Program items 10-18"
-- "Part 4: Conclusion"
-- "Map for the Silver Spring Sustainable Mobility District"
-- "(Big Hairy) Projects Action Plan(s) as an element of Comprehensive/Master Plans"
-- "Creating the Silver Spring/Montgomery County Arena and Recreation Center"

In some follow ups, I added a couple of points that I had missed.  Here's the complete list:

1. Make Fenton Street the primary "east side" sustainable mobility corridor -- a "Signature Street" -- in Downtown Silver Spring/Silver Spring Triangle

2. Make East-West Highway the primary sustainable mobility corridor on the "west side" of the Silver Spring Triangle.

3. Create a cycletrack network on Fenton Street and East-West Highway.

4. Create a network of pedestrian scramble intersections, where one designated signal phase is exclusively for pedestrians.
Oxford Circus, London

5. Rearticulate parking services on Fenton Street/across the Silver Spring Triangle to accommodate cycletracks/removal of street parking.

6. Incorporate greenspace improvements on Wayne Avenue between Fenton Street and Sligo Creek Parkway, treating Wayne Avenue as a "Parkway."

7. Extension of the public realm network through a small "road diet" program.

8. Create and implement a complementary set of urban design treatments.

9. Create and implement a more wide ranging set of programming.

10. Create a digital community and transit information network for Silver Spring, employing kiosks and mobile applications.

Last year the Washington Kastles tennis team played in a set up on the roof of the Union Market District in DC.

11. Creating the Silver Spring/Montgomery County Arena and Recreation Center (which suggests building a recreation center and "stadium" on the roofs of parking garages).

12. Developing the Silver Spring Triangle as a "Bike Friendly District.

13. Designate Silver Spring as a pilot node in the development of a DC-area "Parkiteer" secure bike parking network.

14. Bring Car2Go to Silver Spring. [Car2Go, a one way car sharing program, has since ceased North American operations.]

15. Create a district-wide retail development and recruitment program.

16. Positioning Silver Spring as an innovation district and/or an Ecodistrict.

17. Expand business innovation, through expanded start up support and development activities, and a larger scale makerspace.

18. Assess branding-identity and retune marketing.

Items 1-18 comprise the original list.

Items 19- 25 are additional points I developed afterwards, and are compiled in the 2019 blog entry, "Revisiting the Purple Line (series) and a more complete program of complementary improvements to the transit network" along with other items for the complementary transit network improvement program for the Purple Line, and an additional section on meta-planning points that I hadn't included in the original series (but I should have as a distinct PL article #8).

Ideally, I should go back to the original two entries on the program, and recompile and reorder as appropriate.

Map, Downtown Silver Spring
19. Extend the Ellsworth Avenue Pedestrian Mall west from Georgia Avenue to the Metrorail Station.

20.  Ideally this would be complemented by extending the retail district, by making over as retail the lower floors of the redeveloped Discovery Center ("Foulger-Pratt lands first new tenant for Discovery HQ remake," Washington Business Journal), ideally anchored by a departmenet Store--I suggested Boscov's or Primark--("Making "Downtown Silver Spring" a true open air shopping district by adding department stores").

I know this is a stretch given the state of retail even before the pandemic, but this is an area where a department store could work.

Department stores are a retail type that work best in cities--urban places.

They've been failing because in a sea of suburban retail they aren't distinct.  With the city as experientially focused and shopping as theater, department stores can shine in city settings, still ("Boscov's bucks the retail trend as other department stores close," Allentown Morning Call).

But ideally, and I didn't make this point in the original entry, adding both Boscov's and Primark would be even better. (Especially as it looks like Lord & Taylor, present in the White Flint District in Montgomery County and Friendship Heights in DC, will be closing.)
Primark store in Liverpool's pedestrian district

21. Pedestrianize part of Fenton Street (at the very least from Colesville Road to Wayne Avenue).

22. Add an Upper level exit from the Silver Spring Metrorail Platform.

23. Add at least one children's playground to the urban core.

24. Create an inter-city and long distance commuter bus waiting station on the ground level of the Silver Spring Transit Center on Colesville Road.

25.  Expand the shuttle services for the "parking district" (item #5) to include broader service within the catchment area of the light rail stations to facilitate movement to and from the stations without people "having" to drive.

What triggered this update is an article in Design Taxi, "New York’s Wi-Fi Kiosks Memorialize Murdered Black Americans Amid Protests," about how the LinkNYC digital kiosk system is displaying "ads" featuring the names of African-Americans killed by police.

The LinkNYC Instragram feed is full of images of the kiosks displaying various public service related ads, from honoring Black History Month, the display of artworks, exhibits at area cultural institutions, farmers markets, etc.

It's a good illustration of the discussion within Silver Spring Item #10, on how digital kiosk "ad" systems can deliver community-serving messages, including about local attractions, events, exhibits, etc.

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