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Envisioning Regional Design
Urban Core Center: Downtown Lincoln
Urban Core Center: Downtown Lincoln
Rian Harkins of Olsson Associates facilitated this charrette team. The focus was the 20-block P Street corridor linking Lincoln’s historic Haymarket District with the Antelope Valley. This west-to-east corridor is part of a transitional zone (along with Q street) between downtown and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s City Campus. P Street intersects the north-south Centennial Mall at 15th Street (which connects the campus to the State Capitol along a pedestrian mall). Download the Lincoln charrette final report here
The charrette team (consisting of local citizens, retailers, planners and city officials including the mayor) divided the P Street Corridor into three distinct districts: the Haymarket, Middle P Street, and East P Street. The Middle P Street Zone was defined as between 10th and 15th Streets, with 9th to 10th and 15th to 16th serving as Transition Zones between the districts.
The transition zones are critical for defining a strong mix of uses (first floor retail, with office/residential above) that can successfully blend one district into the neighboring district. Rather than compete against each other, the three districts should work toward a common synergy for the Corridor. The team noted that the city needs to encourage and be open to both high- and low-tech solutions to the overall redesign of the P Street Corridor.
Downtown “Living Rooms”
Building in a step-back approach,in which the first floor extends to lot line but upper stories are set back to create visual “view-sheds,” were favored by the team as a way to open-up streetscapes and create opportunities for landscaping throughout the downtown area. The step-back approach creates a visual connection between people on street level and those in surrounding buildings. Moreover, apartment balconies, office terraces and outdoor cafes (street level and above) could incorporate plants and other landscape elements that would collectively create green corridors linking larger public plazas and give a sense of unity and rhythm to the streetscape.
Of particular note was the proposed public plaza at 13th & P (former site of the Douglas 3 theatres). It was suggested that the first two stories of any building constructed behind or around the plaza square (there have been speculative proposals for a 20+ story tower) should include green “living rooms” that allow the plaza to extend into the building rather than ending at a blank wall. It was suggested that a cafe or beer garden could overlook the site, as well as offices and apartments. The team noted that plaza design should emphasize getting people outside of four walls and touch as many senses as possible. A downtown plaza is more than a park. It is a place to make connections, and requires a high level of activity.
Overall, downtown buildings should demonstrate that the natural environment can exist in the urban space and has the potential to be self-sustaining. Green building standards, open spaces in unique places, the softening of building edges and true urban residential experiences were identified as key areas for downtown planning strategies.
More Than One-Way
Another critical element is transportation. The charrette team recommended that both P and Q streets return to two-way traffic. The current one-way system emphasizes the rapid movement of cars through the downtown but is not conducive to pedestrian safety or street-level retail development. Two-way traffic flows will create opportunities to get people at a speed to see retail and make turns necessary for parking.
In addition to creating a environment more conducive to walkers and bikers, a street car running the nearly length of the P Street Corridor (with turnarounds on either end) would provide yet another transit option as well as strong visual reference for the corridor.
The team suggested that the trolley could follow a landscaped corridor which undulates from one side of the street to the other in successive blocks, making center of the street stops possible (this design is used in other U.S. cities).
It was also suggested that the street grade could be split on P Street at 9th or 10th to allow the trolley and pedestrian traffic to pass underneath.
Incentives for Change
Overall, the team favored a continued strong retail environment for downtown’s traditional “main street” at O, which was termed the downtown’s “retail engine”. They noted that “government needs to acknowledge the necessity of producing incentives and reduce policy barriers for responsible development/growth” through:
- Corridor incentives to encourage LEED green building design and introduce sustainable concepts at the building level.
- Identification of key people in city government to champion changes. Change building codes to encourage green, sustainable design.
- Offering financial incentives, including those that provide housing opportunities for all income levels.
- Examination of opportunities for revitalizing Centennial Mall as a transition zone along the P Street Corridor. Consider reuse of the Pershing Auditorium as an exhibit hall to compliment a new arena that could be built nearby. Keeping the arena site on Centennial Mall would emphasize the mall’s role as a public gathering place.
The workbook used by charrette participants is available for download: Urban Core: Downtown Lincoln Workbook