Monday, April 25, 2005


Fountain Square Progress

The 3CDC (looks like they are readying the website for the unveiling of the new plans, as there is no longer any old information on the website) continues to make progress on the plans for Fountain Square. On the plus side, there are discussions about putting a fountain facing bookstore like Joseph Beth on the square. This would be great for the square, as bookstores are great for foot traffic. In the article they also mention continued work by 3CDC on pulling together a great mix of retail for the area.

On the downside, the article mentions a revised development plan that will 'hopefully' be presented to Council 'sometime' in May. This is disappointing, because previous articles had mentioned late May. I hope to see the final plan including the list of retail clients, and funding in May. Further delay would be very disappointing.

All in all it's great news. I'd love to see the square opened up for access from all sides, more green, a better sight-line (with removal of the concrete monster ampitheatre), and the portion of the skywalk on the square pulled down to street level. I had previously been supportive of removing all the skywalk, but arguments made by others, and a trip to chamber of commerce on Tuesday in the pouring rain, made me change my mind! But I still support getting rid of the portion on the square. It is outside anyway, so the cover from rain/cold is minimal and it closes off the retail on the north side of the square. you could bring it down to street level, and then take it back up across the street to connect into Palomino's/Lazurus.

Sounds like great news for the square. I know I have certain profs who are opposed to changing it because of its supposed architectural value as a marker of 70s design, but in any other estimation, it's a piece of crap because of all those concrete barriers that split it off from the street.

I understand the concern about rain as an argument for keeping the skywalk, but from an urban design standpoint, it's horrible. By lifting up the foot traffic to the second level, it kills street life. If the businesses up there on the second level were down on the street, people wouldn't be complaining as much about downtown seeming so dead.

And before the skywalk, you used to be able to stand on the riverfront and look all the way up the urban canyon and see the hills of Fairview, Mt. Auburn etc. It created a visual and psychological connection that very subtlely tied the city together. The skywalk blocks that view and heightens a sense of isolation while downtown.
The skywalk was successful when there was an abundance of retail on the second level.

The city and business leaders decided to redevelop Fountain Square West and Race Street beginning in the 1980s. About sixty stores were eliminated, mostly from the second level.

As for Fountain is one of the best public spaces in America. I like the fact that it is set on a pedestal, giving it an iconic monumentality within the context of downtown. Really, the problem is the lack of dynamism in the architecture and the land use surrounding the square.

The solution, in my opinion, is to surround the square with residential, retail, and entertainment on all sides. Renovate the buildings surrounding the square, while improving the skywalk system.

It will be interesting to see what happens, especially considering that bank corporations fill much of the office space around it....
It was considered one of the best public spaces in America back in the 70s. But the 70s were about the worst decade for architecture in America. I definitely agree that it needs plenty of retail and restaurants surrounding it, and some residential would be nice, but none of the surrounding buildings are very conducive to residential, unless they finally constructed the other 20 floors that were supposed to be on top of the building directly west of the square. The square itself is a concrete monstrosity with no attention to human scale. By historical and contemporary standards, the best public space in America that I've experienced is probably Union Square in New York.
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