Passages

One of the questions that our SSA commission has been wrestling with has been what to do with Mautene Court, a tiny, overlooked plaza just northwest of Milwaukee and Ashland. It was a stub street turned into a failed plaza, but construction all around it led to its recent closure. I’ve found a few examples of interesting precedents for this kind of “passage park”; most connect two streets, and Mautene has the potential to connect through the lot behind it to rapidly growing Division Street.

* Liberties Walk in Philadelphia. [My photos.] “Part of real estate developer Bart Blatstein’s plan to build an upscale artists’ community on his large property holdings in Northern Liberties. Blatstein designed [it] to be a mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented retail and residential corridor that would fit with the neighborhood’s architecture.” [PlanPhilly] A semi-critical article from when the plan was announced: [City Paper]

* Chess Park in Glendale, Calif. [Photos from Flickr] “The park is located in a previously underused passageway which runs between two retail shops in the Brand Boulevard business district, connecting a city parking structure to the bustling streetfront shops, restaurants, and theaters on Brand Boulevard, Glendale’s main thoroughfare.” [ASLA 2006 Awards]. An hour-by-hour photoessay about a day in the park’s life is in the September 2007 issue of Landscape Architecture magazine.

* Fruitvale Transit Village in Oakland, Calif. [My photos.] This one’s a little more problematic, a handsome two-block pedestrian street developed by a local CDC that was a bit too ambitious with the retail. Read more in New Urban News.

* The Distillery District in Toronto [photos] [previous post on business mix] is a historic industrial complex that has been renovated into an immensely popular, pedestrian-only arts and entertainment village, with galleries, shops, restaurants and cafés, performance and creative spaces, and now (after many years of development) high- and mid-rise condos. (Québec also has a number of lively pedestrian malls despite the bitter cold, like art-stall-lined Rue de Petit Champlain in Québec or restaurant-lined Rue Prince-Arthur in Montréal’s Plateau: [photo 1] [photo 2] [photo 3])

* In a more socioeconomically comparable neighborhood, Mozaic in swanky Uptown Minneapolis is a 2.5 acre site being developed as retail, entertainment, condos, and a boutique hotel in mid- to high-rises surrounding a half-acre plaza with “interactive fire and water garden.” [Flashy official site]

Another idea that’s been brewing, in a somewhat similar vein, is the notion of building a public market in the neighborhood — a citywide destination that promotes local entrepreneurs. I’ve always been a fan of a good market, but most of the famous ones are the cavernous, established downtown markets. So, I was surprised to find a 40-stall public market squeezed into about 10,000 sq. ft. in Viroqua, Wis., population 5,000. It’s not incredibly sophisticated, but it’s a great venue for entrepreneurs and a smart reuse of an existing space — an auto dealership with wood-truss vaulted ceilings, opened in 2004. Midtown Global Market is a better-capitalized new public market housing 60 larger vendors within an old Sears in South Minneapolis. Unlike those areas, though, Wicker Park has the added advantage of being termed as one of the higher-income “food deserts” in recent research (see presentation from Mari Gallagher here) — a neighborhood comparatively underserved by grocery stores.

Perhaps most interesting to this neighborhood is the Epicurious Garden [my photos], a stylish new food hall (think linear food court, or tiny and chichi public market), with ten small foodie businesses, recently opened a few doors from Chez Panisse in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. Most of the vendors face a short passage and offer takeout; around the edges are a wine bar, a classical tea house, a small garden (which still manages several seating options), and a cooking school.

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