I have recently become interested in planning and design methods to dissolve the spatial and psychological barrier presented by the railroad viaduct. When people use the Railroad Park they tend to approach it predominantly from the south (the UAB medical district, Children’s Hospital, Five Points, etc.) and, unless they live in a loft on the northside, rarely venture beyond the viaduct, in part because there’s little reason to. A treelined boulevard, similar to Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue, would improve the space with little capital investment and give park patrons a viable reason for venturing north of the tracks, while also facilitating economic development on the park’s northside. Such a treelined avenue would also improve pedestrian access to the Central Bus Station, which can use all the cosmetic and aesthetic help it can get. Below is a tentative conceptual plan detailing the first phase of improving the park’s northside.
Google Earth image of the general planning area. The orange path represents pedestrian circulation between the Railroad Park to the south of the tracks and the proposed greenspace and greenway north of the tracks.
A treelined, cobbled boulevard along the segment of Morris Avenue just north of the Park would both picturesquely connect the Max Bus Station with a redeveloped train depot warehouse on 14th Street and provide park enthusiasts with a viable reason for venturing north of the railroad viaduct. The greenspace itself could become a landscape architecture experiment.
3D model of the conceptual plan above.
A revived train warehouse could be a unique asset to redeveloping the district, bookending the Morris Avenue greenway to the west with Central Station bookending it to the east.
Urban Target in Chicago. The infill site (shaded light blue) just north of Morris Avenue and running along 1st Avenue North could be used for a big box retailer with an urban site plan. Target retailers are typically flagship stores and could potentially serve as a source of economic development for the district while also providing much needed shopping for the area. While downtown’s stable population is probably not sufficiently dense enough to support such a store, I do think that traditional box stores, often decried as anti-urban, can be incorporated into an urban fabric with high design standards.
This beautiful if underdeveloped cobbled avenue could be easily improved upon: planting trees, of the proper species, would cost a fraction of the total project cost invested in Railroad Park.
Treelined boulevards are simple, elegant and aesthetically pleasing, but may not be the final answer to connecting the divided greenspaces above. This post is intended primarily to provoke dialogue, so if our generous readers have any ideas on how to stitch the north and south sides of the railroad park together, then please comment.