Imagine Tacoma - Streetscape Fascism?

With the City of Tacoma embarking on a repaving of Pacific Avenue between South 15th and South 26th, while it is also continuing to refine the Downtown Plan Update (that includes a proposal for creating pedestrian signature street typologies hoorah),

Historic Street Lights
Tacoma has fantastic historic street lights along Pacific Avenue – truly Tacoma iconic fixtures.

So instead of burying them within ugly gangly street trees….

… or slammed-up next to building facades….

… or used as convenient standards for every incarnation of direction signage idea ever conceived, what about creating an actual master plan layout for these streetlights along Pacific Avenue? Such a plan could then require street trees to be placed in subservient relation to both these historic light standards and also in coordination with the building facades behind. And rather than leaving it up to each developer or public works director to pick out the type of tree species for each Pacific Avenue project, why not designate signature street tree species for the streets and avenues – thus providing variety within Downtown while creating a cohesive vision down each street (taking a page out of Baron Haussmann’s Napoleonic Plan for the grand boulevards in Paris).

And while we are at it:

Trash Cans
Lose the Rubbermaid trash cans and commission a concrete ‘Tacoma Can’ designed in coordination with the Historic Street Light that would have a removable metal top – one for trash and one for recycling (we want to be green right?). These could be located in pairs kiddy-corner across each intersection along Pacific Avenue so that pedestrians can actually have a place to deposit their rubbish (because if I have to pack it out, I am also going to pack it in).

Commission a ‘Tacoma Bollard’ that can be used at pedestrian crosswalks and areas where pedestrians and traffic converge – e.g. Chihuly Bridge, Transit Center, Tollefson Plaza (designed to be seductively leaning friendly per Lars Gemzoe’s recommendations).

Tree Pots
Free the Trees! Pots are fine for shrubs and ornamental plantings, but lose the WWII concrete pill boxes – they are obscene obstructions along the sidewalk (“No Tree Pot for You!”).

So while the Pacific Avenue Streetscape (sic) does convey an eclectic and random lazes-faire design independence, maybe it is time to bring a bit of unified controlling order to Tacoma’s Grand Avenue.

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The “signature” trash cans is what really caught my eye. Remember a couple years ago when Chicago put cows all over downtown? Well, what if we do something crazy with trash/recycling. How about…oh, Tall Ships? Or something else Tacoma is famous for, brewing, so beer bottles…hmmm, not kid friendly. How about rain drop shaped bins? Something by someone in the glass museum?

August 21, 2008 at 9:41 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Forget just Pacific Avenue, let’s adopt this in all of downtown.  Great and do-able vision.

August 22, 2008 at 1:00 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

I’d like to see some sort of neighborhood-specific designs as well.

First, we need the “Tacoma” design. It can be used in all areas of town that don’t fall in a specific neighborhood.

So, we can have a Downtown design. A Lincoln design. A proctor design, a 6th ave design, etc. Not only is there a consistent theme in your area (like an Asian theme in the Lincoln District), but there is also an obvious city-wide plan this way.

August 22, 2008 at 2:47 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Another great post with ideas for improving the public space.  While there has been much talk of design review of buildings within City Hall, another “Imagine Tacoma” shows yet again that it’s really the public space that we should be discussing.

We need public spaces that create a sense of place and identity while encouraging and allowing for a range of uses.  I hope the discussion of a complete street takes place in the review of the <span class=“caps”>MUC</span>s and downtown in a way that we actually get something.

Why has the City not required a cohesive public space in the name of Public Works or Economic Development? They are two departments that have significant clout and manpower <span class=“caps”>AND</span> would see significant benefits.

(Interesting to note that despite Haussmann’s influence on design and the modernization of the city, he was ultimately fired for political reasons.  Who in Tacoma is willing to take on the political storm to build a great city?)

August 22, 2008 at 3:08 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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So “<span class=“caps”>WWII</span> concrete pill boxes” are okay as trash/recycling bins, but not tree containers? I’d rather have less concrete than simply a shifting of shape and location.

August 22, 2008 at 6:03 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Who in Tacoma is willing to take on the political storm to build a great city?

Boe! Boe! Boe’s our man! If he can’t do it, nobody can!

Tacoma desperately needs someone with David’s vision and urban design skills.

August 22, 2008 at 9:39 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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This might be off topic, but <span class=“caps”>PLEASE</span> don’t forget about separate bike paths built into any new sidewalk changes.  Painted bike lanes are scary and dangerous! Progressive changes such as built in bike paths would truly make Tacoma stand out. 

I don’ the purpose in planting such short trees.  The gangly trees are much more attractive and provide needed shade.

August 23, 2008 at 3:22 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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J. Cote

Some pretty good ideas. But, who’s going to foot the bill?

Remember homeless people, drug addiction, hunger??? This is way down on the bottom of the list of what Tacoma “needs”. I’d be happy with medical and dental care for my family long before a separate bikeway and fancy signs and garbage cans.

August 25, 2008 at 5:52 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Erik S

Can anyone tell me more about this Club Juno place?  I went to their website but did not see any real indications that bands play there except for a rockaraoke night.

August 25, 2008 at 4:58 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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From my understanding it is more of a Top 40/Hip-Hop club.

August 25, 2008 at 5:25 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Douglas Tooley

Let’s hope this conversation keeps going – and any disagreements as to aesthetics don’t become issues.

Thorax O’Tool’s neighborhood specific suggestion is great, as is Amy’s incorporation of bike lanes into the effort.

34th Avenue, a possible bike route just south of I-5, would be a great one for both, especially where it crosses Pacific!

Also, Japanese Maples, in my limited ‘rogue gardener’ experience do seem to an addition to the tree list that Tacoma could use to it’s benefit.

August 25, 2008 at 8:12 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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What Pacific needs is a median down the middle. Even a cheap one like they did for the Proctor district would be better than nothing.

August 25, 2008 at 9:01 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Douglas Tooley

A median down Pacific south of I-5 would definitely be a bonus.

My first memory of Tacoma was of heading to Rainier via Hwy 7 – not particularly a positive one.  A greenbelt would help.

Median ‘Greenbelts’ can also help to speed traffic, only allowing left turns at select locations.  This benefit though is small.

The design does require decisions about who gets left turn access and who does not, as well as appropriately placed u-turn widenings, as in UP.

The biggest traffic speeding effect might actually be to shut off all minor streets at Pacific – to right turns as well as left.

Such a strategy would probably be viewed as an improvement to near-arterial residents.  However businesses might be concerned about the lack of left turn access.

I think the benefits of the physical improvement will outweigh that of a minor reduction in access, however improving ciruculation at major business districts would be worthy of design time consideration.

For example, close off all residential streets at Pacific, except for 34th, 38th, 48th, 56th and 72nd.  At 38th and 72nd include additional ‘slip access’ routes at 37th and 74th???

Personally, I’d also like to see stretches of property turned from residential or low-value commercial property to a greenbelt.  The economics of that are not likely to be justified, sans an expansion of the non-freeway route to 6 lanes.

Again, this is south of I-5.

Don’t forget though that it isn’t just a repaving of Pacific that is prompting this discussion.  The whole Sounder crossing issue needs to be resolved (as well as the ommission of a bike trail crossing) and the removal and re-building of the I-5 bridge in the next phase of that project.

August 28, 2008 at 2:19 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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