400 Block Redux

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. 😉

Jim Rosenberg 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. Linden TreesI 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.

Shade Trees, Paris

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.)

Flush Fountain

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.



7 responses to “400 Block Redux

  1. Magnifique!

    The few times I have been to Paris, most of my time was spent in the Quartier Latin. (I did venture into Le Marais district to visit the Musée Picasso though)
    A truly gorgeous city!

    I hope others can see the benefit to the unique shading. We don’t want to completely block the beautiful buildings we have surrounding the square, but I think this is a nice compromise.

    The trees bestow a polished look, while offering an intimate space for conversations and perhaps a shared lunch.

    Thank you for sharing your pictures, Jim. I think it is helpful for people to view actual photos, where they can envision themselves congregating. Flat designs on cardboard don’t do much of that.

    Wausau has a big decision to make. I hope we recruit the “best of the best” when it comes to researching and planning the site.

  2. I was going through the meeting notes from last months meeting. I was pleased to see that the expense of possibly hiring a consultant and obtaining other ideas is not to be a tax-payer expense.

  3. Personally, I love the flat fountain idea. I have no idea as to the cost, but the idea of some multitiered concrete thing had no appeal to me at all, but some granite (perhaps etched with the likeness of Alexander Stewart, Jim? 🙂 ) with dancing waters would in fact add quite a bit to the ambiance of the square.

    But the big black X still has to go, in my opinion.

  4. The general idea is great, however, as usual, all landscape people over plant. Cut the trees by one half and it will look much better.

  5. I agree Ken. Less plants, more people.

    Good for you.

  6. I just like the idea of something that is not going to result in long-term maintenance costs to the taxpayer

  7. I’ve taken the opportunity to read through the recent comments regarding the 400 Block. Last week in the Daily Herald, there was a letter to the editor encouraging local contractors’ input. Thanks to local developers, I’ve had the opportunity to design and implement some exciting commercial projects that are welcomed by the public. There has been a lot of conversation and work already put into the 400 Block project and there are concerns about budget and maintenance. However, the 400 block is the heart of the city and it deserves to be well thought out and represent our community. It’s more cost effective to do the project correctly the first time with long term enhancement. Good design and affordability can go hand in hand. After reviewing the existing proposal and design, I would be interested in discussing some creative concepts.

    Susan Murphy, APLD
    Landscape Solutions by Susan Murphy, LLC

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