More than development. Norwalk redevelopment.

Streetscape Design

At a public meeting held by the Connectivity Steering Committee last spring, those gathered endeavored to prioritize the different strategies that had been discussed and explored to that point (more about that meeting here).  Surprisingly, although they had not received much discussion prior to that evening, “Design Guidelines” emerged as a strategy that members felt very strongly about, capturing as many votes as any other strategy.  In later discussions, it became less clear what people meant by “design guidelines” and questions arose about how design guidelines associated with Connectivity goals would interact and/or overlap with design guidelines already in place for each of the redevelopment districts in the downtown.  What seems to be important to people is that the public space that connects the downtown has some level of consistency in both quality and look throughout.  This endeavor I have taken upon myself to rename “Streetscape Design.”

Although the Department of Public Works has some standards for sidewalk width in the downtown (7′), some standards with respect to sidewalk construction, and a list of tree species to choose from for downtown planting, there are no “streetscape guidelines” or standards for the complete picture.  Rather, these have been dealt with on an ad hoc basis, usually when a major development project (like Reed Putnam or Avalon) came along and developed something specific for their immediate vicinity.  One set of Design Guidelines which seems well-organized, and for a city of comparable size to Norwalk is that of Quincy, MA.  More recently, I came across these Streetscape Guidelines for the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District in Prince George’s County, MD.  As the name suggests, they are more focused on the streetscape itself, and do not concern themselves with buildings or other larger design concepts of the area that the Quincy guidelines do.

As with any of these strategies — and as with successful connectivity itself — it is unclear where one strategy ends and another begins.  As has been argued elsewhere, wayfinding and urban greenery are prominent elements in most quality streetscape designs, and all are arguably part of a still larger endeavor of “branding.”  So as not to let their cumulative scope become overwhelming, each has been dealt with separately here while acknowledging (and linking)their overlaps and connections.

A Streetscape Design for the Urban Corridor is one of the action items called for in the Connectivity Plan, but as it will be a plan unto itself, it is the doing of the plan (not plan elements themselves) which the Connectivity Plan calls for.