Monday, August 4, 2014

900 Columbia Street: not necessarily a loss (redux)

The other day, I proposed a traffic circle at the Prospect Ave./Columbia Street/Columbia Turnpike intersection. Afterward, I recalled another scheme I created last year for the same intersection. I'm surprised I forgot about it, as it was more directly stimulated by the proposed demolition of 900 Columbia Street. The scheme would eliminate thru-travel on a portion of Columbia Street and route all traffic through a conventional four-way intersection. It would look like this: 
The genesis of the scheme was an statement by the owners of 900 Columbia Street that they would create a garden in lieu of the building they were tearing down. The implication was of a public amenity, presumably of greater value than a generically shrubbed parking lot buffer. At the time, I thought, why not ask the owners to put their money where their bulldozers were by asking them to endow a larger public garden in an extended front yard? Politically speaking, this might have been an attractive trade-off for the tortured debate on the building's demolition. Here is the scheme with the garden:
None of this is to say the scheme wouldn't be viable today. I think I forgot about it because I usually don't like to interrupt through streets, particularly in urban districts where street identities are already compromised. But I think I find this scheme superior to the traffic circle scheme, in regard to traffic management as well as pedestrian environment. It's also likely it would require less extensive alterations to the surrounding infrastructure.

A quarter-mile to the west, Columbia Street was recently rerouted in a similar fashion where it meets Green Street:
Westbound thru-traffic, which used to follow a straight path from right to left in the photo, is now diverted around a small triangular island. Eastbound traffic, however, maintains its previous thru-route. What would happen if we also rerouted the eastbound traffic? 
We'd again end up with a simplified, seemingly more manageable four-way intersection. Additionally, the triangular island, which is currently too small to attract users or dignify the memorial now sited on it, could be extended southward to create a plaza that engages the existing buildings on that edge.
Some planters, benches, and other improvements suggest a quite palatable urban space. With the (admittedly glib) replacement of the gas station on the west corner, the intersection might become a place to enjoy, rather than simply get through. Notice that the Hudson City Center (the large brick building at the top of the photo), which now seems alien to its site and to Hudson, looks much more anchored in space. And considered in context with the above suggested improvements at Columbia Turnpike and the proposed revamping of the Seventh Street Park a block to the west, one can imagine a rather pleasant progression down Columbia Street into the city grid, wending through a series of thoughtfully considered public spaces.

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