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Cincinnati: Re-Envisioning Court Street

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If 3CDC wants more of the OTR vibrancy to spill over to Court Street, this task force needs to consider making improvements to Central Parkway which currently serves as a barrier between the two neighborhoods. In the past year, Cincinnati Public Schools and Music Hall officials have also made comments about how dangerous Central Parkway is. There are many intersections that could be tightened up by adding new bumpouts. Better yet, retime the traffic lights to give pedestrians a walk signal before cars get a green light, allowing for them to get out into the intersection and improve their visibility.

 

Here is my suggestion for Central Parkway and Main.

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This is a pretty good list of projects, but $30k is not very much money at all.

 

Hopefully this is more than lip service. I also think pedestrian improvements are way more important in other areas of the city than downtown.

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The idea of making Court Street pedestrian-only between Vine and Walnut was listed as one of the projects that this group will tackle. I don’t think that’s a particularly good idea, and to make matters more confusing, the Kroger corporate office building has a parking garage exit on that block of Court Street.

 

Here is one idea that popped into my head. Why not:

  • Move the “street” to the north part of the right-of-way. This will maintain full access to/from the Kroger garage.
  • Instead of having angled parking in the median have perpendicular parking on the south side of the street.
  • The reclaimed space can be transferred to the south side of the street to create a really nice, wide pedestrian zone. Imagine the storefronts on the south side of Court Street being filled with new restaurants and bars, with a ton of outdoor seating available in that zone. You could even have street festivals there.
  • Keep some of the parallel parking on the north side of the street for deliveries at the Kroger building, but expand the sidewalk in front of the historic buildings that 3CDC is currently renovating into condos.

 

5214B740-0AC6-456E-B527-E1C2F8CE556C.jpeg

 

To me, this seems like a better compromise than making that block ped-only. You still maintain full vehicular access and about 1/2 of the parking spaces. But you make a much better pedestrian experience and have the opportunity for far more street life than exists today.

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I would like to see Court become the city's first Woonerf. Just make it a wipe open, brick ROW with street furniture, trees, etc. and no clear delineation between the sidewalk and street.

 

I don't think it needs to become pedestrian only, but give them equal access to the ROW

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First off let me say I am very happy that this task force, with knowledgeable people who I trust on it, was assembled. I hope they are successful turning some one ways into two ways. 

 

But.

 

As Travis suggests above, I don’t think that making Court pedestrian only between Vine and Walnut is a particularly good idea. Jeff Speck mentions in Walkable City all the failed pedestrian mall experiments that have happened across the country. I don’t think that block is pedestrian-unfriendly now, in fact i would call it predestrian friendly. It lacks businesses in the storefronts, but I think the arrival of Kroger store has the potential to change that, and the new businesses and the Kroger store might benefit from having the existing street parking there. It would be much more beneficial if the base of the Kroger tower could be renovated to open up to the street to include storefronts or offices.

 

I don’t think it’s broken, and I think it is overcompensating for percieved deficiencies of the empty storefronts to try to spend resources there when so many other streets actually need reconfiguring. 


www.cincinnatiideas.com

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I agree with the two posts above. In general I’m just confused where the idea of pedestrian-izing Court Street even came from. There are so many other streets in the urban core that are more in need of improvement than Court Street. Any one-way street that can be converted back to two-way will be a big win, and hopefully this group can start laying the groundwork for Fourth Street to be converted in the future, after the ramp to I-75 is removed.

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Court St (east of Vine) is already probably one of CBD’s best streets for pedestrians in its current configuration: two way, single lane of traffic, 24/7 parking, bumpouts at intersections. There are so many better places to spend the (very limited) budget on pedestrian improvements throughout the CBD. A good place to start would be putting bump outs at every intersection. 

Edited by jwulsin
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Pedestrian malls CAN work wonderfully, if there is already a lot of foot traffic and latent demand for more pedestrian space. They shouldn’t be put just anywhere. This was the mistake of the past - thinking a random physical design could just attract the people. Instead, best practice today follows the behavior of people first and designs accordingly. 

 

This notion that pedestrian only streets don’t work full stop isn’t true. Philly is putting in new pedestrian only alleyways, every Australian city has countless pedestrian only lanes, many of which command the highest rent/sf in the Southern Hemisphere, of course New York now has jumped on the bandwagon, big parts of Central European cities are ped only, etc. 

 

If they’re going to be redoing Court St then sure, make improvements, but in general Cincinnati should identify the streets where the most pedestrians already are and make those the best pedestrian experience possible. And then see where the bottlenecks are (like Central Parkway at Main). 

 

This will build momentum and give the political evidence needed to do it elsewhere. 

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The Court Street pedestrian idea feels like it could just be Kroger attempting to get their own "Fountain Square" type space.

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I was sent an e-mail today from Derek Bauman about the future of Court Street. I've paraphrased it below. There is a survey linked.

 

The Downtown Pedestrian Task Force is circulating a survey asking respondents how they would use a transformed Court Street between Vine and Walnut Street. One of the project goals is to transform this block into a vibrant and pedestrian-oriented civic space that can provide flexibility for programming and encourage strong indoor/outdoor spaces for adjacent businesses. 

 

Please complete the survey below by Thursday, March 28, and feel free to share with your friends, coworkers, and neighbors:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2QNWTPV

 

If you have any questions about the survey, you can e-mail Derek Bauman: derekbauman@gmail.com

 

Continue the conversation below with what you shared in the survey!

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Do it! 

 

I participated in one of the input sessions the other day. Lots of concern over the loss of parking.


“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

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I think the biggest thing to help Court is to encourage bars and restaurants and cafes to open with outdoor space front Court. I would limit parking to 15 minute free spaces in a smaller quantity than currently allowed to allow delivery drivers and food pickups to continue unimpeded. Allow traffic to continue through Court, but create a Woonerf instead of the current setup. Make the lanes very narrow through "sidewalk" infrastructure, and allow pedestrians to cross throughout the block.

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I don't care about the loss of parking as there's already plenty/too much downtown, but Court Street as currently built is has some of the best potential of all streets in the urban basin. The parked cars, particularly the pull-in spaces, help to calm traffic. It's two-way, with one travel lane in each direction (it may be two, technically, but isn't striped nor treated that way aside from turn lanes at the ends). The parallel parking serves as a break between pedestrians and vehicles. There are already nice, wide pedestrian spaces that could be activated with some storefronts without losing the traffic lanes and parking, IMO.  Turning the entire street into a pedestrian plaza would be a downgrade.

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here's a proposal I just drew up. Would allow for parking still, but would empahsize the pedestrian experience. This would also allow the city to maintain the existing trees rather than transplanting them or removing them.

 

The parking is parallel.

image.png.8957ce5168810786232d335d85352130.png

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9 minutes ago, ryanlammi said:

here's a proposal I just drew up. Would allow for parking still, but would empahsize the pedestrian experience. This would also allow the city to maintain the existing trees rather than transplanting them or removing them.

 

The parking is parallel.

image.png.8957ce5168810786232d335d85352130.png

 

Without the businesses along Court sustainably booming to drive activity early in the morning to late at night this much open pedestrian space is as much a liability as asset. This block of Court is not naturally a crossroads with lots of built-in pedestrians and it is so wide it would take a lot of pedestrians to feel activated. 

 

36 minutes ago, Ram23 said:

I don't care about the loss of parking as there's already plenty/too much downtown, but Court Street as currently built is has some of the best potential of all streets in the urban basin. The parked cars, particularly the pull-in spaces, help to calm traffic. It's two-way, with one travel lane in each direction (it may be two, technically, but isn't striped nor treated that way aside from turn lanes at the ends). The parallel parking serves as a break between pedestrians and vehicles. There are already nice, wide pedestrian spaces that could be activated with some storefronts without losing the traffic lanes and parking, IMO.  Turning the entire street into a pedestrian plaza would be a downgrade.

 

Agree with this. I think it may be better to take a hands off approach, let the Kroger store open and see if there is re-ignited demand for the storefronts along Court.


www.cincinnatiideas.com

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Here’s a revised version of my proposal. It’s basically what Lammi proposed above except that I added a bump-out in front of 3CDC’s Court Street Condos project, allowing any ground-floor restaurants to have a larger outdoor space, and have perpendicular parking on the south side of the street since there is so much space to fill. In this scenario I would probably suggest truck loading / food truck parking on the north side and 2 hour parking on the south side.

30246599-E87D-4B23-8336-E0E85E99B6A3.jpeg

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OH, COME ON! We've gotta be visionary and rip off the band aid!

 

Here, please put on my pair of rose tinted sunglasses, and buckle your seat belts.

 

NO MORE THRU-STREET AND LOTS OF TREES AND CRUSHED AND PACKED LIMESTONE! In a car at West Court Street, you have two options if you're a normy: Turn left to go north on Vine or go straight into a subterranean garage. In a car at East Court Street, you have two options if you're a normy: Turn left to go south on Walnut or go straight into a subterranean garage. The garage would hold double the amount of cars that this one block currently holds and would cost the same as on street parking today. Up above, you have a park much like Occidental Square Park in Seattle. One really awesome thing that would take place at the Court Street Plaza would be the gathering of FCC supporters on their march to UDF Stadium in the West End. Every day, the plaza would be filled with lunch time crowds, public art, ice sculpture competitions, movie nights, concerts, bocce ball, cornhole, ping pong, weiner dog races, giant chess, light shows, psychos, Furbies, screaming babies in Mozart wigs, sunburned drifters with soap sud beards, Ice sculptures (did I already say that?), winos, Germfs – German smurfs – a Teddy Ruxpin wearing mascara, an old lady wearing Kid ‘N Play hair, and none other than DJ Baby Bok Choy.

Court Street.png

Edited by Chas Wiederhold
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Occidental Square Park in Seattle for reference: https://www.google.com/search?q=occidental+square+park&safe=off&rlz=1C1GCEU_enUS821US821&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiv8rONj5ThAhUI74MKHVB6BkcQ_AUIDygC&biw=1536&bih=782

 

I posted about the conceived idea of Court Street on twitter a while back. If you squint hard, you can see how life would be different today if the Kessler Parks Plan was fully implemented:

 

 

Edited by Chas Wiederhold

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With the Kroger HQ Building being such a deadening influence in the north-west portion of the street, I just don't know why we should bother making this section of Court Street pedestrian only.  Their building is just brick wall for nearly half the block on the northern side.  I'd say wait until all the redevelopment of the buildings is done and the new Kroger store has opened.  Then see if Kroger is planning on doing anything with their corporate HQ before going down this path.  Unless they're going to be a partner in this endeavor I'd say there are other things we can focus on.

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"Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." - Warren Buffett 

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11 minutes ago, bfwissel said:

With the Kroger HQ Building being such a deadening influence in the north-west portion of the street, I just don't know why we should bother making this section of Court Street pedestrian only.  Their building is just brick wall for nearly half the block on the northern side.  I'd say wait until all the redevelopment of the buildings is done and the new Kroger store has opened.  Then see if Kroger is planning on doing anything with their corporate HQ before going down this path.  Unless they're going to be a partner in this endeavor I'd say there are other things we can focus on.

 

I wonder if Kroger would be open to some art mural on that wall/some type of permanent interactive art/light display. Would definitely liven up that blank brick wall. 

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17 minutes ago, bfwissel said:

With the Kroger HQ Building being such a deadening influence in the north-west portion of the street, I just don't know why we should bother making this section of Court Street pedestrian only.  Their building is just brick wall for nearly half the block on the northern side.  I'd say wait until all the redevelopment of the buildings is done and the new Kroger store has opened.  Then see if Kroger is planning on doing anything with their corporate HQ before going down this path.  Unless they're going to be a partner in this endeavor I'd say there are other things we can focus on.

 

This is exactly why I drew my diagram the way I did.

 

In a perfect world, yeah, I think a full pedestrian plaza throughout the block would be awesome! I think we need to build the demand for that by taking 60% of the roadway on the southern side and changing it to a pedestrian plaza. You can still have all of the ice sculptures and screaming Mozart-wigged babies you want on the smaller plaza. My plan also considers that you need to pay for this to happen, and this seems like a pretty reasonable way to cut down on price while still getting a highly desireable place to open a business. There aren't many businesses on this block of Court. Available street parking clearly isn't spurring the development this block needs, and by maintaining some limited parking at the edge of the plaza you still allow for quick uses like delivery drivers. You also maintain access to the Kroger garage.

 

If this proves successful and Kroger HQ decides to open up their Court-facing facade, and it becomes a lively place to spend the afternoon or evening, then you can discuss Chas' plan where you cut off traffic altogether.

 

The plan I outlined also would greatly reduce the number of people using court as a through street.

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I just feel like no one should wait for Kroger to do anything. My idea is based off of the Barcelona Superblock idea: https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/08/inside-a-pedestrian-first-superblock/566864/ Yeah, it's a new idea, but it's not entirely untested. I'll admit, Ryan, my proposal was totally free and philanthropically funded by Cintifuse angel investors who run underground weiner dog racing leagues.

 

Further, I lust for the OG international style Kroger Building. It's base was far more open (but it appears as if the south side of the building was always more fortified). I also love the mechanical penthouse as an object on top of the tower. Cue someone reminding that this building sucked and was trash before the re-do and that nothing good has ever happened in this city after the great depression.

Kroger Tower 03.jpg

Kroger Tower 02.jpg

Kroger Tower 01.jpg

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Haha I understand your plan, and thinks it's better than mine! But I think mine is more attainable with what our current administration and council would be comfortable with, and what funding would likely be available.

 

Also, I'm going to totally disagree with you on the Kroger building haha. Not that I think the current iteration is great. I probably wouldn't fight a conversion back to the old look, but I hate being able to see if shades are up or down inside a skyscraper. 

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I'm not saying to wait for Kroger to do something.  I'm just saying to engage Kroger and coordinate any efforts in the area with them.  If they aren't willing to improve their terrible HQ design then let it be.  They may actually be willing to work together with the City of Cincinnati if there is a mutual benefit to both.  I've never understood the idea of pushing these public improvement ideas without co-coordinating with the local community and neighborhood stakeholders.


"Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." - Warren Buffett 

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Damn Kroger's original Court Street street wall was completely flat and blank, that's tragic.  The original design was clearly inspired by Lever House in NYC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lever_House#/media/File:Lever_House_390_Park_Avenue.jpg   My guess is that it was pretty grungy by the time of the redress, and they were probably getting killed by the heating and a/c bills.  I think the tower redress is completely banal whereas the original design was more eye catching, whether you like it or not.  They really screwed up the redesign of the base though.  Yes they opened up Court Street some, but floors 2-3 are complete turds compared to what they were. 

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I don't disagree 100% with you guys. 1) @ryanlammi, I like your plan. It is far more feasible. From where I stand though, if you start with proposing that, it will get scaled back to something more conservative. Shoot for the stars (crying babies in mozart wigs) and you might land on the moon (Ryan Lammi's proposal). 2) Wanna wrestle about how cool the Kroger building is or is not? It's going down the next time we hang out. 3) @bfwissel I totally agree. Kroger must be a community partner in this, especially if they plan to operate out of their existing HQ tower for another generation. They stand to benefit from an incredible public space more than others and must be robustly engaged. I just wouldn't want them to control the process like Western & Southern with Lytle Park. Not that I hang out in Little Corporatia (a nickname I just came up with for the southeast corner of downtown) very much, but the whole project from Anna Louise Inn to demo-ing the houses on Arch Street and on and on stink of exclusivity at the expense of the public.

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3 minutes ago, Chas Wiederhold said:

I don't disagree 100% with you guys. 1) @ryanlammi, I like your plan. It is far more feasible. From where I stand though, if you start with proposing that, it will get scaled back to something more conservative. Shoot for the stars (crying babies in mozart wigs) and you might land on the moon (Ryan Lammi's proposal). 2) Wanna wrestle about how cool the Kroger building is or is not? It's going down the next time we hang out. 3) @bfwissel I totally agree. Kroger must be a community partner in this, especially if they plan to operate out of their existing HQ tower for another generation. They stand to benefit from an incredible public space more than others and must be robustly engaged. I just wouldn't want them to control the process like Western & Southern with Lytle Park. Not that I hang out in Little Corporatia (a nickname I just came up with for the southeast corner of downtown) very much, but the whole project from Anna Louise Inn to demo-ing the houses on Arch Street and on and on stink of exclusivity at the expense of the public.

 

 

#2 sounds like a good excuse for a UO Cincinnati pow-wow. 

 

Also, I am a +1 on restoring the original International Style facade design. Advancements in technology will allow for bringing the design back with more energy efficiency and perhaps even some solar or other sustainable features included.

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“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

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