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 …
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.