Of the many thoughts I took away from Columbus – and trips to other cities for that matter – was how well unified many of their districts were. The areas of Columbus that I was able to spend a lot of time in were very impressive in look, atmosphere and layout.
As I explained in my original Buffalo and Columbus post, the Ohio city benefits greatly from having three thriving work-play districts that run up into each other. Short North, the North Market and the Arena District are basically all on the same street, which makes finding things to do a breeze.
Buffalo doesn’t exactly lack unified districts – Allentown and Elmwood Village immediately spring to mind – but I do feel like there are many parts of our city that are disjointed. Steps are being taken to amend this through streetscape and other improvement projects and I think we’re absolutely on the right track.
For example, a new streetscape project for Genesee Street between Oak and East Huron will not only cleanup and beautify a stretch of Genesee that runs by a number of key downtown properties, but it will also connect through to the Cars Sharing Main Street project. Projects like this are exactly the type of thing that should be targeted in other areas of the city.
The recently proposed Genesee St. project is a great case study for the point I’m trying to make. The Genesee Gateway, Dog E Style and Eddie Brady’s all sit on or near the Genesee-Oak corner. Around the corner on Ellicott is the Washington Market, Sea Bar, the IS Lofts and the future homes of Niagara Distilling and Toutant.
Past the yawning M&T Bank surface lots is the suddenly grown up Chippewa District while Oshun, Big Ditch and a blooming restaurant row occupy the area of East Huron and Roosevelt Plaza which connects into Main Street.
All of this, while separate, has the potential to be unified by a streetscape project like the one coming to Genesee. If a similar project was undertaken for Chippewa, there would be three significant thoroughfares with a brand-new, walkable streetscape to compliment the new development happening on corners all over the area.
A pretty street alone doesn’t make for a district, of course. But to compliment the positive momentum along Chippewa while tying it in with a larger triangle of terrific dining options makes a lot of sense to me. For visitors, they’d see a very clear delineation of areas they should be spending time in and with the growing food and drink options along these routes, it wouldn’t hurt to further connect the three, especially since the Genesee project will effectively link the Genesee Gateway to Main Street.
There are other areas that spring to mind in terms of streetscape and district enhancing measures. Allentown and the Elmwood Village are easily the two most distinct districts in the city with the Cobblestone District and Canalside following in behind.
Not every area of the city needs eye-catching signage telling you where you are. In fact, I’ve visited many cities with incredible, thriving areas with catchy nicknames that lack any semblance of branding. For example, Allentown needs no further promotion. It doesn’t need to be dolled up because it exists as one of the city’s hippest spots on its very own.
The same could be said of the Elmwood Village. It’s a terrific part of the city that has grown wonderfully in recent years and is enjoying additional in-fill projects as we speak. I wouldn’t be against placing the Elmwood Village logo (in a form other than the nylon lamp post banners) in more prominent places between Forest and Bryant. But that’s a little nitpicky.
Hertel is an area I really think could stand to get a bit of branding along the lines of what I experienced in Columbus’s Short North Neighborhood or even along the lines of the sign welcoming you to Corn Hill in Rochester. Granted, the Corn Hill sign is on a highway overpass. Point being, that if there was a name for Hertel – the Italian Heritage District, for example – utilizing it in a streetscape and neighborhood enhancement would be wise.
Coming up with a name is a challenge as there probably aren’t enough Italian eateries and shops to call it a proper Little Italy and it doesn’t have the luxury of a catchy nickname like the Hydraulics like the Larkin District (which uses district specific signage). I’d vote for simply calling it The North, but I’m not sure the city is open to building Castle Black along Hertel and Parkside.
What’s great about Hertel, like Elmwood and Allentown, is that it isn’t lacking for character. Nor is it spread thin or sparse in terms of attractions. My thought process on enhancing the street, particularly from Parkside to Delaware would be to give it a stronger sense of character, if that makes sense. A streetscape that included some sort of cool, unique signage along each block to compliment businesses like Public House, Mes Que, the North Park Theatre, etc. would certainly add to what is already an impressive portion of the city.
Here are two great examples of something that could be done in conjunction with a streetscape project on Hertel. In fact, the Merchant City design would be cool to utilize in Allentown, despite what I said earlier.
I’m excited to see what other areas of the city get the attention of a streetscape project as so many spots are in desperate need of a makeover. Clearly city planners have realized the need to create more walkable areas and they’re taking steps to promote that. I’m hopeful that these projects not only get the green light but some high-speed treatment as they’ll help to bring a much needed boost to certain areas of the city.