Great streets feel good.
Walk or drive down the stretch of Third Street between Hallock and Hall in Jamestown now that the oak trees are in full leaf and try not to be inspired. It’s hard. The soaring trees, the interesting buildings, and the view of downtown on the other side of the bridge all combine to make a trip along Third a real treat.
That beautiful street is also a safer place this summer after a 2013 repaving project that included striping to clearly mark travel lanes and parking lanes. What had been an ambiguous and awkward street for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians is now more calm and comfortable.
This simple but significant change is part of an important trend, both locally and nationally, as more attention is paid to making streets attractive and safe. Beautiful lighting, nice trees, and other design features that emphasize pedestrian comfort have all been recognized as ways to boost property values and investment, build a sense of community identity, and cultivate places where people walk and bike more often because it’s convenient, affordable, and pleasant.
Creating enjoyable places to walk and bike is a priority for many cities today as travel habits and attitudes evolve. Living in areas where cars are needed to carry out even the smallest errands is becoming less and less desirable for most Americans. A recent survey found that 80 percent of young adults want to live in—and will seek out—places where getting to work and performing chores can be accomplished without completely relying on a car.
As a compact city with plentiful sidewalks, Jamestown has a head start when it comes to providing a range of travel options. And between the restriping on Third Street, the expansion of the Riverwalk, and the improvements made through the rebuilding of the Washington Street Bridge and Arterial, real progress has been made by the city.
But there are plenty of unrealized opportunities. Three places, in particular, stand out as chances to transform important parts of Jamestown into truly inspiring streets that have the potential to change how people see and experience the city by car, bike, and foot.
First, there’s Fourth Street in downtown Jamestown. It has some of the city’s most stunning architecture, but the street itself is an overly wide asphalt moat that often feels empty and bleak. Although it handles fewer than 5,000 vehicles per day—less than half the number that travel North Main Street—it carries three lanes of traffic in the same direction with parking on each side. How about switching it to two-way traffic and narrowing the street to allow for more trees and pedestrian space, as proposed by a 2008 traffic study for downtown? It could become the city’s most charming street.
The second opportunity is Foote Avenue and the Arterial between Cole Avenue and South Main Street. Its gentle curves and dramatic inbound views of downtown Jamestown make this a great candidate to become a boulevard with attractive lighting and a median lined with flowers and trees. Besides the visual appeal, this would create a park-like connection between downtown and Allen Park and encourage pedestrian and bicycle traffic along a corridor that currently repels both.
The third opportunity takes us back to Third Street and the area stretching from Hall Avenue to the other side of the bridge. Making the bridge more appealing to cross on foot through wider sidewalks and more attractive lighting would be a big improvement. So, too, would rationalizing the awkward merger of Fourth and Third just before the bridge and turning the hillside connecting Porter Avenue and Steele Street into a dramatic, sloping park to tie the Westside to the Riverwalk.
All three of these examples would create safer places to drive, bike, and walk. But they would also create places worth caring about—places people want to travel through to experience their city.
Is there a street in Jamestown that you would like to make more beautiful and functional? Visit the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation on Facebook and let us know what you have in mind.
This post appeared in The Post-Journal on June 9, 2014, as JRC’s biweekly Renaissance Reflections feature.