Richmonders got a taste of what urban planners can do to provide a sense of what's possible a few years ago when the folks at Dover Kohl blew through town to help develop the Downtown Master Plan. But I'm still occasionally struck by how simple changes can transform the look and feel of urban spaces -- and how many words a good picture can really say.
Chris O'Brion tipped me off to a NYTimes article on New York City's first street design manual, which is focused on transforming the vacant, utilitarian streetscapes that were so popular in the 1970s into spaces that welcome pedestrians, bicyclists and horseless carriages alike. The article comes with a nifty Flash image showing what a transformed Carlton Avenue in Brooklyn might look like with the new designs in place. I've captured the before and after photos below.
All of this makes me think about Richmond's amazing Downtown Master Plan and its emphasis on language -- using words to describe what a future urban center could become. It would be awesome to see what more future-themed pictures could tell us about a revitilized downtown, and how they might inspire more Richmonders to envision a future different from our past.
Even more exciting than what New York has been doing is what the smart-as-whip folks at GOOD Magazine have been doing -- running their own street redesign contest. "Project Design A Livable Street" uses a redesign of the intersection of Manhattan's Amsterdam Avenue and West 76th Street as a starting point. (Click on the before and after images below for more detail; or go to the interactive graphic at GOOD to see exactly what's going on here.)
The winners included a redesign of a Portsmouth, Virginia, streetscape. Go check them out -- it's some amazing stuff, and a good model for how we could do a better job of imagining our future streetscapes.