Duval Street – We See the Future and it Could Start Now
By Chris Hamilton, June 24, 2020
This is a follow-up to our May 25 article “Can We Pedestrianize Duval Street AND Still Allow Vehicles?” The short answer was yes and we discussed the concept of a “Woonerf” or “Shared Street” that is designed for people but allows some cars at very slow speeds. In an article yesterday (Shared Street Is An Asset for Downtown, Robert Stueteville, June 23) the Congress for New Urbanism cites Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, Florida as a model for cities wanting to do similar with their main streets across the country.
From the article: “Starting in 2019, Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, has been rebuilt as a shared street, acting both as a public plaza and a traditional main street. Street improvements provide more shade trees and wider sidewalks, more seating and street amenities. The reconstructed street is completely curbless and devised to slow down traffic. Retractable bollards allow for an adaptable street where sections are easily closed to automobile traffic for special events, and the flexible curbside management combines café seating, on-street parking, bike parking, and ride-hailing pickup and drop off. All of this contributes to a strong placemaking program designed to contribute to downtown as an engine of the city’s economy.”
We reported on June 10 (Duval Street Revitalization Moves Forward) that the City Commission at its meeting of July 21 will pick between two finalists to conduct a Duval Street Revitalization Study. The Study will develop a Plan to rebuild the infrastructure of Duval Street to do many of the things that Clematis Street is doing. That’s a good thing. But the study will likely take a year to conduct and actually building new curb and gutter and much more could be many years away. Do we really want to wait that long? Especially when we need to learn to live with Covid, and could use more people-oriented streets NOW.
Let’s Use Tactical Urbanism To Close/Slow Duval Now
We think that we can close down some blocks and slow down other parts of Duval Street now, mimicking these improvements using low-cost, temporary, pop-up “tactical urbanism” measures. Some paint, planters, bollards, giant rocks and construction barriers could do the trick. In fact, the City already has one of the world’s leading tactical urbanism firms, Street Plans of Miami, in-house as a consultant doing the Crosstown Greenway pilot project. We can institute a program to install parklets instead of car parking and combine this with other measures to slow or close the street. This gives us the opportunity test things out and adjust before we do some big, expensive, infrastructure project. Let’s use the summer and fall to implement some projects on Duval before the next winter season begins at Christmas and get a head start on our future while improving our health.