Category Archives: Preservation

Historic preservation is often called the “ultimate recycling”

Explore Fort Pulaski by bike this Sunday with the Savannah Bicycle Campaign

Things look different when viewed from behind the handlebars and that’s especially true of our local landmarks and attractions. The Savannah Bicycle Campaign’s Jerry Jaycox Wheelie ride on Nov. 13 offers a new perspective on the Fort Pulaski National Landmark site and nearby trails:

“The ride, now in its fourth year, is named for founding SBC board member Jerry Jaycox who passed away riding his bicycle. The ride will again take riders of all abilities through the trails and dikes of Fort Pulaski and include a spin out to the McQueen’s Island Rail Trail which parallels the south channel of the Savannah River.”

The ride begins at 2 p.m. and is followed by a cookout. Best of all, entry to Fort Pulaski is free! More information is available on the Savannah Bicycle Campaign website.

Parking lots cause lots of problems, inspire lots of quotes and, once upon a time, started a movement

Bill Dawers  has strong feelings about parking lots, which he shares in his City Talk column, “Another parking lot detracts from downtown’s vibrancy” in today’s Savannah Morning News:

“They tend to rend the residential and retail fabric. They repel pedestrians. They generally generate far less economic activity than more intense uses. They create heat islands. They contribute to problems with drainage and polluted stormwater runoffs.”

And he’s not alone in his thinking. Here’s Donald Shoup quoting Jane Jacobs on how parking lots affect the sidewalks they border and the city at large:

“The presence of open shops and people on the street encourages other people to be out as well. People want to be on streets with other people on them, and they avoid streets that are empty, because empty streets are eerie and menacing at night. Although the absence of parking requirements does not guarantee a vibrant area, their presence certainly inhibits it. ‘The more downtown is broken up and interspersed with parking lots and garages,’ Jane Jacobs argued in 1961, ‘the duller and deader it becomes … and there is nothing more repellent than a dead downtown’.”

John A. Jankle and Keith A. Sculle review Jacobs’ ideas about what parking lots do to neighboring properties:

“A kind of ‘unbuilding’ or running-down process was set in motion. Thus, parking lots were ‘instruments of city destruction that could ‘disembowel’ a city. ‘City character is blurred,’ Jacobs continued, ‘until every place becomes more like every other place, all adding up to Noplace.”

And they offer a quote of their own:

“Nothing over the past century in America has proven as disruptive of the traditional urban landscape as parking. Perhaps nothing has made American cities less memorable…nothing fragmented the urban space more than the parking lot.”

It’s important to remember that the preservation movement in Savannah, which has prevented downtown from becoming “Noplace,” has its roots in a fight over a parking lot.

“Savannah was becoming Anyplace, USA and it was losing its soul. By the mid-1950s, the loss of the Wetter House, beloved City Market and demolition threats to the Isaiah Davenport House sparked the formation of Historic Savannah Foundation. Led by seven visionary women, HSF purchased the c. 1820 Davenport House and thus began the organization’s formal entry into the world of preservation and real estate.”

Why was Davenport House being threatened with demolition? So the land could be used for a funeral home parking lot. The question now is how to promote better uses for spaces left behind by buildings that were not saved.

Dawers offers more thoughts (and photos) on his blog.

Charrette particpants asked to describe DeRenne Avenue now and in the future

DeRenne Charrette

As cars and trucks droned by outside, citizens streamed into a former auto parts store at the corner of DeRenne Avenue and Montgomery Street. The purpose of the gathering tonight was the launch of a week-long design charrette focused on the DeRenne Avenue corridor, arguably one of the most important yet troubled streets in the city. Factor in its use by commuters from outlying areas and its importance and troubles become regional in scope and severity.

Facilitators from Kimley-Horn and Associates described the work they had done in Phase One of the project and outlined the goals for Phase Two and, in particular, the schedule for the charrette. Before the presentations and during breaks, participants browsed maps and visual representations of the streets, buildings and other components of the DeRenne Avenue corridor.

In his remarks, KHA’s Stephen Stansbery repeated a mantra that came from the project advisory committee: “Doing nothing,” about the current state of DeRenne Avenue, “is just not acceptable.” Further, he suggested the widening of DeRenne, which has been floated as a cure for traffic congestion, is not the easy solution some imagine it to be. “Adding lanes,” he said. “is rarely the solution in an urban context.” Still, the audience was cautioned, moving automobile traffic must be a central part of the final product.

But what is to be done about DeRenne? Stansbery issued a challenge of sorts, referencing Savannah’s world famous streets, which attract millions of visitors from around the globe. “Why can’t we build a street today that’s great today and will be great 100 years from now?” He said doing so would take courage and vision.

As part of that vision, charrette attendees were given small sheets of paper and asked to complete two phrases:

Right now I think DeRenne Avenue is …

and

In the future, I visualize DeRenne Avenue as…

How would you answer each question? Respond in the comments section.

For more information and a complete schedule of the week’s events, visit the Project DeRenne Web site.

Streets: Destinations or simply ways to get there?

In recent blog post, Savannah Morning News Environment Reporter Mary Landers plugged her address into Walk Score. Running your Walk Score number is fun and can be instructive, athough there are flaws in the Walk Score methodology. I described them here. and Landers finds similar bugs.

Landers expresses concern about the walkability of her Parkside neighborhood, writing, “I can and do walk the area for exercise, but there aren’t many walkable destinations as far as shops and restaurants.” She’ll be happy to know there’s an affordable and widely available device that will effectively double or triple any neighborhood’s Walk Score. In fact, I’m pretty sure Landers owns one. I’ve seen her with it. It’s called a bicycle.

picture-16.pngResidents of Parkside may be surprised to learn they can use their bicycles to visit shops and restaurants that are just to the east of them, not far as the crow flies, but often deemed unreachable because of the concrete curtain that is the Truman Parkway. I’ll admit it, traveling on Victory Drive under the parkway overpass is not a pleasant experience on a bicycle. However, with a little practice and confidence it becomes less scary.

Still, “World Famous Victory Drive” isn’t the sort of place most people would choose to ride a bike. That’s because it has ceased to be a public space and is now mostly a pipe for moving cars. And in that way it is a lot like the rest of the country.

For the past 70 years, American cities have been designed to continuously accommodate ever increasing volumes of traffic. Through our work in over 2000 communities around the country, we have found that when cities are designed around cars and traffic, they fill with more cars and traffic—whereas if we begin to plan cities for people and places, we will get more people and places.

That’s something I found on the Project for Public Spaces Web site. Here’s a little more:

Starting in the 1970s, when PPS President Fred Kent began working on William H. Whyte’s “Street Life Project,” PPS has continued to be involved in research, training, and project work related to transportation issues. We have trained transportation professionals across the states of New Jersey, New Hampshire and New York in Context Sensitive Design; we designed and manage the FHWA Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) website, and are in the process of developing a major campaign geared towards achieving fundamental transportation reform in the United States.

It is clear from all of our work that the public spaces of cities, towns and villages—our streets and roads, parks and plazas, waterfronts and commercial districts—represent this country’s greatest potential to create livable, walkable, healthy and sustainable communities, as well as its greatest challenge.

picture-15.pngThe Fred Kent mentioned above will be in Savannah early next year. From the MPC Web site: “Fred Kent, founder of the Project for Public Spaces, will lead a community forum at the Coastal Georgia Center on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 beginning at 7 p.m. This forum will focus on creating vibrant community places and offer strategies so that we can incorporate the concept of placemaking into our public destinations.”

I’m hoping Kent will help Savannah realize that streets are public places and destinations unto themselves. The MPC invites citizens to download a brochure here and take a survey here.

Imagination

Last night, creative city making champion Charles Landry spoke to a packed house. I had the pleasure of being in the audience along with most of the usual suspects (govt., real estate development, business, downtownies, a few artists & SCAD folk) . . . you were probably there too. He was worth standing up for, even if my feet are paying the price today.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, I’ll briefly summarize. Landry defines creative cities as those in which ordinary people (along with their local bureaucracies) solve problems (or rather, create opportunities) in imaginative ways.

I really appreciated his notion that creative cities strive not to be the best in the world, but the best for the world.

Creative cities are made deliberately; they require inclusion, collaboration, motivation, public places, respect of history & culture, openness (open to difference, change, ideas, emotions), holistic thinking, ownership (as in, this is my town and I’m responsible for what goes on in it), bravery, values and imagination. Imagination is key.  I wonder if Charles Landry likes Spongebob as much as I do.

Spongebob
“I-ma-gin-aaaaaaaaaaa-tion!”

What did ya’ll think?