Multi-modal streets were rising in popularity before the pandemic, according to a speaker at a CREW San Diego event.
Outdoor retail and dining areas could be here to stay, according to panelists at a recent CREW San Diego event, which analyzed the lasting effects of the pandemic. The conversation included Howard Blackson of AVRP Studio; David McCullough of McCullough Landscape Architecture; Christopher Bittner of OBR architecture; Alyssa Muto of the environmental policy and public space in the planning department at the City of San Diego; and Penny Maus of the Port of San Diego, who served as moderator.
“We’ve been shifting to multi-modal streets for quite a while,” Blackson said at the event, adding that these spaces include roundabouts, bike lanes and parklets. “We are moving that way because the streets were designed in 1880s for a horse-and-cart to do full turn. We have excessively wide streets.” Using these areas is not only beneficial during the pandemic, but it is a way to expand revenue out in the future, creating mixed-use streets. “Rules and regulations from 60’s to today were car-focused,” added Blackson. “Now it’s people focused. City leadership is listening to new ideas. If you want to be engaged, now is a great time to be engaged.”
Bittner also had experience creating multi-modal areas for restaurants. He struggled with community arguments. “When I designed the first parklet in front of Café Calabria, we heard all arguments: no one wants sit in the street; people will die; people can’t park in front of the business,” he said. However, the numbers quickly disproved the naysayers. “In first year of parklet, business went up 30% because more people in front of their business. Cars slow down because of something in parking space,” he added.
Now, the community perspective has changed. Many people are much more open to these areas, both building them and using them. “Mike Hansen at the City of San Diego said the city has changed, the paradigm has shifted,” said Blackson. “The city recognized that parks/parklets are expensive to build. The expense is not necessarily in the construction; it’s in acquiring land. Look at what we currently have and develop within that. Our streets are a significant part of our city that’s only used by cars. Hats off to city for thinking about that. What’s happening is really healthy. The right way to look at public space.”
Parks were once fodder for suburban markets, but now, cities are incorporating more public areas that can be utilized in different ways. “It is still important to create new ones, but also reinvest in parks and find parks in different ways,” said Muto, adding that new types of parks are located in the backyard of many communities and can be connected by bike/pedestrian sidewalks and infrastructure.
Source: “Outdoor Retail Areas Are Here to Stay”