Tuesday, February 28, 2012

UPDATE: The Arts Alley District, new and improved?

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 11:40 AM

HB&A's open house will be held Monday, March 5 at its office on 102 E. Moreno Ave. Twenty-minute presentations with discussions will be given from 9 a.m. to noon. No RSVPs needed, just drop in.

——-ORIGINAL POST, 12:17 P.M., FRIDAY ——-

Imagine a downtown alley that looked like this:

Screen_shot_2012-02-17_at_1.20.39_PM.png
  • HB&A Architects and Planners

Or this:

No dark puddles, no creepy corners, fewer Dumpsters stinking up the way.

It could happen. Not soon, but someday.

Last year, Brett and Lauren Andrus of the Modbo and S.P.Q.R. started pitching ideas for a proper Arts Alley District, which could include more businesses, more foot traffic and prettier surroundings for the alley that their galleries sit upon, stretching north to Platte Avenue and south to Kiowa Street, parallel to Cascade Avenue.

With financial help from the Downtown Development Authority and several other enterprises, HB&A Architects and Planners drew up these renderings for short- and long-term ideas to improve the alley.

“What the project is, is initially, just kind of an improvement investigation, what could be done,” says Andrea Barker, HB&A director of business development.

Small steps include better illumination of the pedestrian stairwells in the parking garage that abuts the alley. But one of the biggest goals — and obstacles — toward improving the area is revamping the trash-bin situation.

HB&A’s plans for Dumpsters include grouping them in clusters in unobtrusive parts of the alleys, and hiding them behind pens to make them less ugly. However, with businesses contracting with different sanitation companies, garbage disposal traffic in the alleys makes grander gentrification ideas harder to envision.

What planners would like is to not only group the Dumpsters better, but to follow Manitou Springs’ lead and contract with just one company. Barker also cites another option, happening in downtown Seattle, where there are no Dumpsters at all, but garbage pick-up twice a day.

She adds that ultimately what the alley needs to grow is “24/7 activity” of all types for all ages, and that includes downtown living. While this project would add other facets to, say, downtown’s club-only nighttime activity, it would need some planned to even get started.

Yet those ideas are years away and millions of dollars down the road.

“To just look at the two alleys, we’re now dealing with a microcosm of what is, the whole downtown,” she says. “You’ve got business operators, sometimes different than building owners, you’ve got city, you’ve got utilities, you’ve got the garbage carriers, you’ve got the Downtown Partnership, and the Partnership’s got a lot of parts …”

And even once all those entities are reached and pitched on the ideas, getting them to agree on a central vision brings up a whole new set of challenges.

The next steps involve meetings with City Planning as well as an open house HB&A is planning to host in the first two weeks of March, during which Barker says they’ll share their ideas with anyone who’s interested.

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