Eds Note: Jim had passed along some pictures and text that he wanted added to the comment thread on the discussion that he kicked off on the 400 block. Unfortunately, WordPress was not cooperating with that, so I had to make a post instead. You can continue the discussion by commenting below. I am pretty sure Jim can take it. 😉
By Jim Rosenberg:
Here are some things that are worth thinking about for the 400 block that can dramatically change the ambiance and sense of place without destroying the useful free space that is so critical to the activities there, such as concerts on the square. I don’t offer them as the be-all and end-all answers, but I know from working with many initiatives that people have a hard time visualizing things and they are often resistant to change.
I photographed the trees in two different public spaces; one in Paris at Place des Vosges and the other in Niagara Falls, Ontario. They are Linden trees, which is a variety of basswood. They provide dense, attractive shade, but they can also be shaped. This allows them to be kept at acceptable proportions so the view of the buildings around the square isn’t lost. While it requires annual trimming, that’s really not a big deal. (Compare it, for example, with having to continuously maintain an ice rink; the length of the season and the number of people who would enjoy them.)
The fountain picture is also from Niagara Falls but I’m seeing this in many different places. It’s flush
with the ground so it can be turned off when we’re doing something like a concert on the square, etc. This is something that has motion and “activity” of its own when there is not something else going on. From Spring to Fall, this kind of attractive water feature could add a lot of ambiance. It also adds an element of “white noise” that creates an urban escape in otherwise more hectic environment. For a local tie-in, the red granite could be quarried right outside of town for something like this.