By Matthew Ricchiazzi:
As the medical campus searches for room to grow, and as developers are in search of fewer and fewer adaptive reuse opportunities in the core of downtown, the Fruit Belt and Genesee Street will experience the dawn of rapid urban reinvestment over the next five years.
The Fruit Belt will emerge as the neighborhood of choice for nurses, researchers, and students working and studying on the medical campus. They will quickly trade the boredom of a commute and the hassle of parking for the active lifestyle that comes from the humanizing luxury of walking to work.
Genesee Street will emerge into a hip and artsy district with the catalytic energy of preservation and adaptive reuse projects, one after the other, driving a repopulation of the neighborhood that seems unimaginable today. But like many things, it will have seemed inevitable in retrospect.
With that on the horizon, let’s do something so catalytic that it utterly transforms the region’s perception of the East Side and ushers in an era of urban reinvestment that goes far beyond the vicinity of the medical campus; achieving a gentrification that reaches deep into the eastside.
Traffic patterns and traffic volume are drivers of real estate development. By controlling and allocating the distribution of traffic patterns into the city, we can encourage new mixed use investment on the East Side by modifying major roadways to better accommodate growth opportunities by allowing a more desirable urban form to emerge.
Downgrading the Kensington Expressway as it enters downtown, and modifying it into a grand parkway – the city’s most iconic entranceway – we can remake the Fruit Belt into one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods.
This stretch of highway and its adjacent feeder streets consume a 180 foot right of way. That right of way can be repurposed into a tree lined parkway reminiscent of (but very different from) Humbolt Parkway, with wide pedestrian spaces, on street parking, bike lanes, and a wide greenway that enjoys the sweeping viewscape of downtown’s skyline.
The Champs-Élysées in Paris has a wide streetscape with a 220 foot right of way that accommodates high volumes of traffic, high density development, and a highly comfortable environment for pedestrians:
Unter den Linden in Berlin enjoys a 190 foot right of way that accommodates high volumes of traffic and a wide pedestrian greenway, seamlessly: