On November 1st, we had the pleasure of welcoming Stefanos Polyzoides to present “Towards an Architecture of Place,” at the SCAD Museum of Art.
Moule & Polyzoides is an architecture firm that focuses on the commitment of the city and nature. They bring ideas and projects that enhance and resonate with the culture and place while producing the best community benefits. The company also has a strong focus on urbanism as it serves as a bridge between public policy and physical design. It is the kind of process that creates compact places that are, economical, walkable, diverse, and can be used several ways.
Stefanos presented a great case study, on how street design can enliven the public realm. Lancaster, CA is a suburb 70 miles outside of Los Angeles, holding over 150,000 residents, had a high employment rate, and a downtown with businesses withering away. The downtown of Lancaster was struggling with it’s Main Street which had been widened to 6 travel lanes of traffic plus parking. The public realm was missing as the former shopping street had become a freeway. All in the name of moving cars faster at any expense.
-Then. Lancaster, California's Main Street.
The architects presented a pedestrian strip down the center of the loaded with clustered parking and aligned palm trees that provide shade and act as a windscreen. Most importantly, the strip encourages walking. This addition to Lancaster, is known as The BLVD and has completely transformed the downtown by attracting people from all over for events, farmers’ markets, festivals as well as the shops, restaurants, and museums.
-Now. The Main Street, now known as The BLVD in Lancaster, California.
Unlike before, when cars were passing through at high speeds, with the 9-block center strip, cars passing through, drive no faster than 10-15 mph. The economic value returns have effected the property values in a positive way for creating jobs, lowering the unemployment rate and boosting the downtown revenue to 96%. This project has generated an estimated amount close to $273 million dollars in economic output.
As we are able to see the positive transformation and outcome for Lancaster, we have to wonder why this isn’t an addition that could be a solution to Bay Street of River Street. Although, this project cannot act as a template; it is a concept that can be very well replicated. Savannah is a city of good bones and a great Public Realm. Bay street is seen as one of the few streets seen as having a traffic problem, when really it is a civic design problem. A concept like the BLVD, which promotes the Civic Public Realm over traffic speed, is an addition that promotes good health, sustainability, community engagement, civic beauty, value and creates the economic development that Bay Street needs.
-Bay Street now. Savannah, GA.
-What Bay Street could be like. Les Rambles, Barcelona, Spain.