Historically the streetcar was located in the center of Washington Street. Modern rail systems sometimes use a center alignment and sometimes use a curb alignment, and each comes with advantages and disadvantages. While not a transit facility or engineering plan, this vision plan suggests keeping the center alignment primarily to promote the addition of on-street parking next to the curb lane to support new retail businesses. Center station platforms are strategically placed to minimize disruption to turning traffic while also adding high-quality crosswalk enhancements to connect the platforms with sidewalks.
It is important to promote density of residents, jobs, and destinations to support transit. But density need not translate into high-rise buildings. Three and four story buildings, similar in scale to many of the remaining historic structures, provide plenty of density without overpowering nearby single-family neighborhoods.
The corridor was developed during the era of combined sewers that cause significant pollution in nearby streams during heavy rains. Washington Street revitalization should be a model for redevelopment that not only mitigates the combined sewer legacy, but does so in a sustainable manner that actually improves the ecological conditions of the neighborhood.
While there are several large community parks on (Willard Park) and nearby (Christian Park, Highland Park, Brookside & Spades Parks) the corridor, it is important to include a variety of open spaces into revitalization efforts. From rooftop gardens and stormwater prairies to courtyard plazas and outdoor dining areas, these open spaces promote civic life and carry out important ecological functions.
While inherently necessary to support revitalization, parking lots waste land and significantly lower densities, especially when each and every individual building has its own parking. A more efficient and appropriate solution is the use of shared parking lots or structures that consolidate parking. Where large tracts of new development occur, on-street parking can also be added, providing the quick, convenience parking needed to support retail businesses.
A solid employment base created the near eastside and is critical to its rebirth. It must be recognized, however, that the corridor cannot compete with suburban industrial parks that offer easy truck access, new infrastructure, lower taxes, and no crime. The future of East Washington Street industrial land is not in pretending to be suburban, and companies desiring a suburban location are never going to locate on the corridor. The future must build on the strengths the corridor offer—namely unparalleled access by transit, a convenient centralized location, and the proximity to quality, affordable workforce housing.
A busy regional corridor is not the best place for lower density housing, including single family homes and duplexes. They also don’t provide the necessary density required to support higher levels of transit service. More durable residential types, including townhomes, apartments, condominiums, and live/work arrangements provide density while expanding housing choices that buffer adjacent single-family neighborhoods from a bustling urban corridor
Transit activity promotes a nodal type of retail development, with core neighborhood-serving retail clustered around the places with the most pedestrian activity—where the transit stops are. The days of an auto-oriented strip commercial corridor are long gone and should be replaced with smaller scale retail concentrated in pockets.
The remaining historic structures along East Washington Street are irreplaceable and highly important to surrounding neighborhoods. They represent a contract between generations and establish the legacy of a once-vibrant corridor. They also happen to support pedestrian oriented development and promote sustainable development practices. The greenest building is one that is already built!
The value of the future East Washington Street isits unparalleled transit access and associated vibrant urban form. It won’t succeed by pretending to be suburban, and new development must embrace pedestrians first and foremost. This means wide, contiguous sidewalks with high-quality amenities, inviting storefront buildings that address the sidewalk, and parking lots to the rear of buildings with drives and curb cuts that do not diminish the pedestrian experience.