The pedestrian in the urban core

Material Information

The pedestrian in the urban core
Bruce, Colleen
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
77 pages : illustrations (some color), chart, maps, plans (some color) ; 22 x 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Pedestrian facilities design -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Central business districts -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Central business districts ( fast )
Pedestrian facilities design ( fast )
Colorado -- Denver ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (page 77).
General Note:
Cover title.
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Landscape Architecture, College of Design and Planning.
Statement of Responsibility:
[Colleen Bruce].

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
10789997 ( OCLC )
LD1190.A77 1982 .B774 ( lcc )

Full Text



£TH0Nmewal desi,
This thesis is submitted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for a master of landscape architecture degree at the University of Colorado at Denver College of Design and Planning, Graduate Program of Landscape Architecture
Daniel B. Young, Program Director
Colleen Bruce, Landscape degree Candidate, College Planning, University of Denver, May, 1982.
Archi tecture of Design and Colorado at

Katy Liske
Project Manager/Lower Downtown The Denver Partnership, Inc.
511 16th St. Suite 200 Denver, Colorado
Richard Marshall
Landscape Architect
Denton, Harper, Marshall and
1756 Blake Street Denver, Colorado
Mi chael Bel 1o Landscape Architect Murata and Outland 1055 Wazee Street Denver, Colorado
Jerry Shapins
Professor, Landscape Architecture University of Colorado at Denver



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In recent years, increased interest in our 1arger urban areas, especially those of historic significance, has brought more and more people back to the urban core. Either as a place for living, working or for recreational purposes, the cities are witnessing a new vitality on a 24 hour basis. Along with intensified population into the urban core, comes new requirements for public open space, specifically those of the street. Requirements for plazas, miniparks, active recreation and above all the necessary breathing space for the inhabitants, as well as improved and intensified circulation patterns and paths for the pedestrian.
A general lack of understanding exists in relationship to the pedestrian in the city. Structures out of scale and character dominate the landscape. The sidewalk, having the potential to function in relationship to and as an extension of the structure it connects to, often serves only as extension of the vehicular aspects of the street. Too often the internal activities of the buildings ignore and turn away from the pedestrian on the street. Lacking this physical and visual interaction, the streets become image-less, nonidentifiable passages. It has been forgotten that the true language of cities deals with interrelationships of the various systems, rather than singular objects.
The present design response and the physical/structural approach to the urban public environment, seldom reflects the needs of the pedestrian concerning safety, comfort and protection. Nor does it provide for the diversity, textural interest, structural interaction and visual display necessary for creating streets as places to be rather than a place for hasty passage.
If the urban public environment were appropriately handled, it would reflect and enhance the diversity of the function, resources and the character of the area that it intersects.
Through minor changes the urban public environment can be made more expressive of its own identity, more supportive of the activity that takes place there and better able to enrich the experience of the people who use it.
The purpose of this study has been to provide for a coordinated, identifiable pedestrian system appropriate to the present and future needs of an urban, historic district.
Through research and analysis this study will determine a framework plan and conceptual design guidelines for a pedestrian network within the lower downtown district of Denver, Colorado.

It is the intention o-f this document to accommodate the necessity -for an environment more conducive to the pedestrian while retaining the functions, character and special qualities of the historic lower downtown. By maintaining a flexible approach to design guidelines, the result will a chi eve a harmonious balance between the new and the old, lower downtown.
Recognizing that this study would not only provide constructive design guidelines and at the same time introduce a philosophy that would analyze the interaction of these guidelines on the existing character of an historic area, it was necessary to establish a methodology or process to follow throughout. Since several other studies had been done regarding structural/architectural and development issues, I limited myself to the physical aspects of the sidewalk/street environment, in lower downtown Denver.
Working with Ms. Katy Liske, project manager, lower downtown (Denver) project and staff member at the Denver Partnership Inc., the specific goals of this study were developed.
Generally the process of this study is as follows:



American cities have been undergoing changes in their form and function reflected in a dramatic spatial reorganization ...Downtown has become sharply defined on the vertical and horizontal plane.
Instead of placing man at the center of our urban environment, we have left it either empty or cluttered with wasteful practices.
The automobile and all its attended needs; parking lots and meters, traffic signs and lights, signage and advertising placed in the perfect angle for the automobile. Pedestrians exist in a confused state of visual, physical and emotional intrusions. Emphasis is placed on moving vehicles and on building structural monuments.
Congestion arises not because of too many people, but because of a conflict of user requirements. Pedestrians, cars and buses each demand and require sufficient space and time. Unfortunately the pedestrian requirements are too often lost to the vehicular needs of the street.
"The quality of life, the
livability of a city, is not measured at the skyline, but at ground level in the streets, parks and plazas that make up what is known as public spaces."
Arne Abramson
The area we know as "sidewalk" has become a regular feature of the street scene only within the past lOG years or so. History shows that the streets and walkways were once one.
People had to compete and share the "walkways" with horses and carts, animals to market, vendors; not only to get from place to place but also as a place to buy and sell, socialize, and tal k.
"As soothing as rural life may be, it is the city that stimulates the brain. No other environment trickles the senses as much as the street."
Bernard Rudofsky

Based on simplified surveying methods, the majority of the western and mid-western cities in the U.S. are laid out in a grid pattern. While serving to expedite efficiency and control and to increase the total useable land, the grid system is highly and totally inefficient for the pedestrian.
Needlessly long walks around entire blocks, often combined with massive, uninteresting facades. This grid also contributes to congestion at street corners forcing many people out into the traffic lanes.
When no odd angles or blocks out of sequence occur these grid streets, visually, go on and on. Focal points or landmarks very rarely occur, and only, it seems, by accident.
Not only on the ground plane but the vertical elements also contribute by way of massive scale, lack of color, texture, lack of structural interaction and ground floor activities to the hard edge symmetry of American western cities. The land form becomes a system of unrelated objects on the surface of the street. Buildings share very little interaction with their surroundings, focusing on the internal machine of their existence.

Space as it relates to the pedestrian represents a unit of volume. Space is not only the physical capacity of the walkway to accommodate people moving along its length, people stopped at its corners or at bus stops, but is perceived as a three dimensional chamber. This is defined by building mass and scale, the formation of distinct edges and the aspect of physical and emotional enclosure.

Capacity of the floor
Capacity of the floor represents the physical space the pedestrian has to move around in.
Using a 16 foot walkway as an example, we see that 24 30 inches from back of curb is taken up with parking meters, parking signs, street lights, utility posts, vehicle overhang, trash receptacles, newspaper kiosks and in some cases plant materials and tree grates. Next to the building two factors occur that reduce pedestrian space: first, many pedestrians window shop, wait for buses or other people, and generally move slowly next to the building; second, many people avoid walking close to buildings for safety and psychological reasons.
This 16 foot sidewalk is now reduced to a 12 foot sidewalk in which people can move freely. These same dimensions occur on any urban street.
The minimum width taken up by a pedestrian is approximately 24 inches. Add to this minimum shopping bags, briefcases, children being carried and the width requirement per person could reach 3640 inches. On our 16 foot sidewalk example, the maximum number of pedestrian, freely moving traffic lanes would be five.
The speed of pedestrian movement is a direct result of pedestrian density as density increases speed decreases. Pedestrians reguire a clear zone or psychological territory in front of and behind them. This territory varies with each particular street or "people" activity but generally on urban sidewalks the minimum forward dimension would be approximately 10 feet.


On an eight toot sidewalk the same ratios occur, reducing the overall width to approximately -four feet.
(The use o-f these particular sidewalk widths becomes apparent with my case study.)

Major street intersections pose a critical problem regarding capacity. Walk lights generally are timed tor vehicular movements and not tor pedestrian crossings. Consequently depending on the sidewalk width and activity ot the area, a buildup ot people otten occurs. What then happens is people are waiting to cross the street in two directions, sometimes being torced out into the street to wait, while others are trying to turn the corner and proceed along their path.

Barriers -for the pedestrian are comprised o-f physical, visual, emotional and psychological -factors. The physical and emotional e-f-fects o-f crowding, noise, structural scale, the impact of vehicles individually and in massive proportions; the vehicular pollutants, diesel -from buses, trucks. The emotional effect of running, crossing against traffic.

Visual barriers include the multitude o-f signs, lights, billboards and color, designed in proportion to the speed of passing vehicles. Often street signs fall into this category placed high above pedestrian eye level. Buildings often do not interact, physically or visually, on the pedestrian level setting up another barrier, the closing off of the street activity, from what happens within.

What has been attempted so tar is to describe and point out the most general problems facing the pedestrian in an urban setting.
Based on these general problems I have developed a series of principles, principles that serve as guidelines, flexible enough to apply almost anywhere larger cities and people exist.
I have separated these principles into two categories; physical principles and visual principles.
Capacity becomes the most important factor affecting people in the city. Solving this critical aspect of providing enough space and movement for a multitude of spontaneous activities to occur, while at the same time not providing too much empty space for a pedestrian to feel lost in, is a delicate problem.
Walkway capacity, in theory, is a measure of the number of people able to move past a given point in one minute. Solving the numbers issue for a known and constant capacity is a relatively easy task making long term predictions based on present conditions and future proposals for an area, as well as calculating numbers of people, is a difficult project.
Basically then, the principles regarding capacity are:
By expansion of the walkway width, where appropriate, allowing for adequate pedestrian movement and interaction to take place.
Maximum capacity should be encouraged and utilized on high intensity pedestrian shopping streets and at congested intersections.
Regarding space:
By defining pedestrian areas with vertical and horizontal elements to achieve a sense of enclosure by width and height.
Directness of path:
By eliminating physical barriers in the pathway and where feasible, by encouraging bctilding setbacks,
especially on congested corners. To provide for a more natural curve.



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Principles of Safety
By eliminating the pedestrian/vehic-ular conflict and by removal of obstacles for barrier free movement.
By clearly delineating and defining the pedestiran path; both physically grade separation being the best method, and visually with obvious pattern, color and textural changes, from non-pedestrian areas.
By encouraging pedestrian level land use compatible to pedestrian activity and movement, therefore encouraging more people to be on the street more often. Thus providing eyes on the street.
Principles of Comfort
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By providing adeguate protection reflected and direct sunlight, glare, wind, rain canopies, covered
structural arcades;
width of the walkway or the climatological aspects
require, the use of applicable plant materials is encouraged. Plants not only offer shade and cool relief in summer months but provide seasonal variety, texture, an overhead canopy softening the vertical elements, and visual relief from the constancy of the urban scene.
And as in the words of WiIlian H. Whyte, "Please, just a place to sit." By providing numerous opportunities for people to sit; for resting and at observation points appropriately located along the path.


By providing in an urban setting enough "visual cues," tor pedestrians walking through our western grid system to enhance and provide a spirit o-f surprise and adventure.
By providing colorful and lively visual stimulus on the -floor, wall and ceiling of the street. This can be achieved simply with banners, wall murals, -floor pattern and texture, with appropriate plant materials, and on a temporary spontaneous basis with entertainment and seasonal activities. This ultimately will encourage areas and an atmosphere that promotes pedestrian interaction.
By manipulating and positioning visual elements to de-fine the path, to delineate activity nodes, and provide subtle goals -for the pedestrian to work towards.
To encourage elements that provide pedestrian scale.
Archltecural Principles
By encouraging structural diversity with texture, form, color, pattern, materials as well as encouraging the process of time and change and its effect on the layering of architectural ornament.
Signage and Lighting
By minimizing the impact of a multitude of incoherent and overwhelming messages.
By reducing the scale of light standards.
By developing a more coordinated overall system for street furnishings and how they interact with the entire urban scene.
Sense of Place
By utilizing those elements that best describe, reinforce and enhance the character of the area that the street intersects.
"ffi stor i cal 1 y the observer was intended to move at pedestrian speed. Consequently the details of architectural ornament, textural effects and combinations of materials were important design elements. Seen from a moving vehicle, these elements blur into an apparent hodgepodge. Perceived at pedestrian pace they become interesting, varied, picturesque, intimate parts of the urban scene."
New Bedford Study

Visual Cues

Visual and Physical Patterns that Define
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The Floor
The floor of the city plays an important role in how all the elements can be integrated and brought together.
For the floor to become a major part of the urban pathway, it must be considered an equal partner with the buildings it connects to. Because of its relative location, its scale and texture it is able to produce a sociable and homogenous effect, in the greater urban network.
The floor must contribute its own unique type of drama, by weathering, wear and settlement or by the variety and amount of materials used.
The floor can persuade, segregate, divide and channelize; induce movement into and out of buildings and spaces through pattern and textures promote adventure; affirm a sense of place-plaza or square, or to merely hint at the possibility; the floor can delineate the vehicular path, articulate and unify with common and consistent patterns, materials and treatment, a direction and area of safety for the pedestr i an.
The floor is not simply there for the building to stand on but has a character and vitality peculiarly all its own.

Introduction to Lower Downtown
Lower downtown is an area of Denver physically bounded by Speer Boulevard and the Cherry Creek Greenway on the southwest, Union Station and the railyards to the northwest, the 20th Street Viaduct on the northeast and the alley between Larimer and Market Streets on the southeast. The 150 acres of lower downtown encompass approximately 23 city blocks.
Originally the city of Denver was known as St. Charles Town, and its roots began in what we now refer to as lower downtown Denver.
The overwhelming historic value of lower downtown lies in its romantic link to the beginnings of Denver in the 1800's, and to its inseparable relationship to the early transportation crossroads of the American West the rai1 road.
In the mid 1800's the city of Denver emerged in the wilderness of the American West. Denver swiftly adopted the lifestyles of great cities, extending its economic influence and power over the vast Rocky Mountain region. What distinguished Denver from other American cities was its rate of maturity its instantaneous beginnings. Where cities of the Eastern United States formed over many generations from homestead to village and town to layer upon layer of establishments Denver emerged almost overnight with its beginnings, as St. Charles Town, founded and developed in the span of thr ee decades.
Because of its proximity to the Platte River and Cherry Creek and to the mining activity that had lured the original settlers here then ultimately the railroad, all commercial and political activities remained in lower downtown until the turn of the century. With increased mining activity beyond the bounds of Denver bringing in stronger financial influence, the economic presence, so strong in past decades, moved away from the area.
Lower downtown became all but deserted leaving remnants of a colorful and energetic past behind. By 1900 the area was being used almost exclusively as storage/warehouse space and the process of decline began.
Only in the past decade has renewed interest in the historical aspects and development potential of lower downtown been increasing; increasing on a daily basis with changing land owners and land values.
The symbolic value of lower downtown, its political and commercial roots, its warehouse and storage functions, the center of rail transit serving the entire Rocky Mountain region; are now being reacquainted and renewed with several new forms of business, commercial and residential functions.

Existing Character
The existing character of lower downtown is an amazing conglomeration of various colors, textures, form and functions. The varied activities that take place add to the human texture of the area. Lower downtown is like a patchwork quilt. The degree of "Structural Decline", the aging of certain parts compared to recent renovation, the scale and architectural content all contribute to a multitude of visual and emotional reactions. The warehouse district, part of the original community, continues to exist and function despite mounting pressure to eliminate these activities.
The layering of time and materials, evolving over and because of economic necessity, contribute greatly to the overwhelming sense of place in lower downtouwn. The uniqueness of the area cannot be found or duplicated anywhere else its rich and colorful past, its heyday, prosperity and days in defeat. Now lower downtouwn is becoming reacquainted with its visual, architectural and historical interest and is offering to the citizens of Denver an opportunity to participate in its ongoing process of change.

"Below the Larimer line of Denver'5 Bowery is a vast area where I roamed away much of my childhood. The Sundays of February, March and much of April were spent at cards. But with the first of Springs fair days Father had led me to the new horizons of a diversified wonderland; always on these Sundays, he managed to struggle awake in time for our late breakfast at the Mission. Then we doubled back toward 16th and went down its Sabbathdeserted street in an erratic walk, the pleasure of which increased the more we neared my playground. Passing the Metropolitan, we would usually pause in our trek to chat with the old boys who, ungracefully decorating the front steps with their unsavory selves, crowded around the doorway so as to soak up what strength they could.
After leaving the group therapeutics with their health problem, there was a direct line to the Union Station, and thence to the Platte River and its rocky terrain. From Market to Wynkoop streets was four blocks consisting of filling station, seed company, American Furniture Company warehouse, Cranes Pipe and Plumbing outfit, Singer Sewing Machine Company, Cummings Automotive Diesel showroom, the Great Western Sugar building and across from it the Solitaire Coffee Company mixed all along with the usual couple of bars, restaurants and flop hotels. Keeping to our right at the viaducts beginning, we passed through a block of always-dank shadows under the rumbling overhead. The Union Station at the foot of 17th Street came into view.
We avoided the building because of the dead end trainshed tracks on its other side. Instead we took to 15th Streets chuckholed pavement to cross the tracks."
Neal Cassady "The First Third"

Regional Context
Surrounding influences and activities that interface on both strong and weak edges of lower downtown are the key to determining what type of future will develop.
16th Street Fedestrian/Transit Mall
Penetrating into lower downtown from the central business district and connecting the two. The future influence the mall will have on the area will be the transit terminal. (at the end of the Mall), increasing the numbers of pedestrians and vehicles entering lower downtown on a daily basis. This increase will bring inherent problems of traffic, parking congestion and vehicular circulation. This increase is both a potential asset as well as detriment to the future of the area.
Central Business District
Immediately to the Southeast and having the most threatening influence on lower downtown lies the central business district of Denver. The overwhelming density threatens not only on a visual levelscale, but on a potentially consumptive level. The CBD is running out of expandable space and has already begun to infiltrate the lower downtown. Along this edge lies the Skyline Urban Renewal Projects its purpose being to transform the area between the central Business district and the lower downtown. High
densitites, 1 and use changes, structural mass and arrangements are of immediate concern to the lower downtown.
Cherry Creek Greenway / Speer Boulevard
Serving as a strong physical boundary between lower downtown and the Auraria Campus, these two areas are important features to the long range viability of lower downtown.
Presently no strong connection between lower downtown and the Cherry Creek Greenway is available. The historical significance as well as its important recreational link could serve as a valuable edge, if properly integrated.
Speer Boulevard dominates this boundary of lower downtown as both a visual and physical barrier. Long range views into and out of lower downtown from the Southwest are nearly eliminated by the elevated roadway. It serves as the major access to and from the city to the North, West, and South, with increased congestion and use occur ing all the time.
Auraria Campus
Crossing the physical boundaries of Cherry Creek and Speer Boulevard, to the southwest of lower downtouwn lies Auraria Campus. Its relationship to lower downtown is as a people generator, for potential commercial/retai1 and residential development. This increase in campus activity is somewhat evident in the maintained pedestrian flow between the two areas.

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Rai1 yards
The rail yards serve as the northwest boundary. Any development changes which may occur, both residential and industrial, would greatly affect the present lower downtown. An increase of traffic flow and impact on existing access roads. Problems with parking and the ability to deal with great numbers of people.
Northeast Area
There are no real threats north and east of lower downtown to be concerned with. However, the edge is very weak, growth and activity could spread into and out of lower downtown from this area. The area is primarily industrial in use and relatively stable.
Denver is unique in that it has the capacity to provide for a great deal of outdoor activity on a year round basis. Unfortunately it has seldom been explored. Winter is presumed to be cold, wet and miserable, summer hot sultry and unbearable. Fortunately neither is the case too often, on the average there are 270 days per year with abundant sunshine combined with moderate temperatures. Any future plans for lower downtown should address this in planning and design.

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Up to now, the majority of development activity in lower downtown has been centered on structural changes that will take place there. Focusing on rehabi1itation, restoration and intill development with little attention paid to the pedestrian environment.
The inherited problems o-f congestion and con-fusion tor pedestrians in a radically changing historic district, exemplifies the situation of an inconsistent and ill defined pedestrian environment. By encouraging new and diverse functions to exist and by increasing the numbers of people using, working or living in lower downtown the necessity for change to accommodate this increase is today most apparent.
It is necessary then to develop a pedestrian system linking the various activity nodes and functions such as the 16th Street Mall, RTD Transit Terminal, Union Station, and the Cherry Creek Greenway, along with residential and business functions while maintaining and where necessary enhancing the historic character of lower downtown.
The Pedestrian Environment
Based on visual analysis and a user survey that I developed in the spring of 1982, the patterns of pedestrian movement were charted on a series of site maps.
pedestrian use zones
The majority of pedestrian activity takes place in the high intensity mixed use zone. This is an area with a heavy concentration of restaurants and bars as well as an accumulation of various retail outlets. Most, if not all, of this activity takes place with a great deal of interaction between the interior building activity and the street.
Key landmarks in this high intensity zone are; RTD Plaza and terminus of the 16th Street Mall; Larimer Bguare on the southern edge of 1ower downtown acting as a great generator of people; the Cherry Creek Greenway; and the most important landmark Union Station, a major focal point for pedestrians.
The low intensity and intermittent use zones represent the major warehouse and storage functions, where pedestrian activity is limited and often unsafe.

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pedestrian views
Lower downtown is in a relatively flat. low-lying area. Because of its minimal topography any long range views at the street level are limited to minor channels. The elevated roadways can serve as visual barriers as well as provide the frame necessary for views to the south. Because of the strong grid system of the streets. views can be endless with no apparent focal point or views can be abruptly cut off when various grid angles converge.
Union Station is a strong historical and visual feature connecting the present "uptown" Denver activity with the past. Beyond that the long range views toward Highlands, an early Denver suburb and an occassional glimpse of Long's Peak and the Front Range to the north and west.

pedestrian paths
The high intensity pedestrian paths also exist in the high intensity use zones. These particular paths are important to pedestrians because of:
1. The width o-f all these streets is at least 16 feet wide.
2. The activity on the street level is diverse and varied and is primarily geared towards people on foot.
3. There exists a relative amount of brightness and room while still maintaining a sense of enclosure.
The secondary paths, according to the user survey, were considered merely a connector to the higher used pathways. These secondary pathways consist of :
1. Inadequate width, all are 9 feet wide or less, with headin parking existing on some.
2. A major portion of these paths exist in the warehouse/storage areas with either an elevated loading platform or no access/ platform at all.
3. The activities that exist along these paths are for the most part, not catering to pedestrians.
However, the same reasons that make these particular paths little used, are the very reasons why they are often adventuresome and appeal ling.
The secondary paths require active participation in passage, one becomes more involved with the sense of place when confronted with a sidewalk or pathway that abruptly ends, or one that maintains a slight aura of mystery.

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vehicular circulation
Unfortunately, the very streets intensely used by pedestrians are the very streets that handle the heaviest volume of vehicles on a daily basis. Major routes into and out of downtown Denver pass through. Two streets, Blake and Market, are state highways and future plans may involve an increase in their volume. This heavy vehicular traffic that occurs in areas where walkways abruptly end or do not exist poses a tremendous safety issue for development activity.
Freely passing from one side of the street to the other would have to be eliminated or restricted to a designated mid-block crossing.

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pedestrian barriers
From analysis of the street level form of lower downtown, major physical constraints in the form of barriers both physical and visual were deter mined.
The three critical physical factors:
1. The problem of pedestrian comfort and safety with the heavy vehicular traffic flow, insufficient size of existing walkways to accommodate pedestrian flow. and the narrow dark passageways that exist under the 15th and 16th Street Viaducts.
2. Lack of a continuous walkway system throughout the area. Pedestrians often are confronted with abruptly ending walkways.
3. Access for the pedestrian is interrupted with inadequate and inconsistent curbs, steps and signposts in the way; passage around parked vehicles is often hazardous and the conflict between truck/ service and loading activities with pedestrians is constant.
The critical visual barriers that ex i st:
1. The problems of scale with the high rise structures on the edge of lower downtown overpowering the intimate, human scale, and texture.
2. An abundance of windowless "faceless" structures along the si dewalks.
3. Parking lots are prolific in lower downtown, existing on almost every street intersection and often in mid-block locations as well.

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sidewalk inventory
By combi ninq the pedestrian use zones with pedestrian paths a more specific and detailed inventory of the actual, physical sidewalk space was developed.
The 16 foot wide sidewalks exist in the high intensity paths, the 9 foot wide sidewalks exist primarily in the low intensity use zone, and are the secondary paths or adventure streets. The loading docks and walks that are three feet wide or less exist in areas where very little pedestrian activity is taking place. (However, one of the busiest pedestrian connector streets, 15th Street between Blake and Wazee Streets, is a little less than three feet wide.)

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EXISTING CHARACTER Major Pedestrian Path Loading Docks


"Historic commercial areas present a unique preservation problem. Such areas are characterized by concentrations of urban warehouse/commer cial structures of varying quality and antiquity. In contrast to the homogeneity o-f residential areas that often exhibit a great variety of architectural style and historic period, commercial areas often exhibit varying degress of
"structural decline" adding greatly to the unique character. While residential areas of historical merit are a relatively stable element of urban development, the historic commercial/warehouse area is affected by constant pressures to change, absolve, increase,
diminish; pressure stimulated and fed by economic realities."
New Bedford Study
The result of this analysis made more apparent, the main objective of this study:
To provide for a pedestrian network that is coordinated, identifiable and appropriate to the present and future needs of an urban historic district. The intention is to accommodate the important need for an environment more coordinated, more comprehensible and more conducive to the pedestrian, while maintaining the need functions, character ities of the historic
to retain the and special qual lower downtown.

Design Objective
To develop compatible and flexible design guidelines that combine the elements of the emerging character of lower downtown with the existing image and character of the district into a coordinated pedestrian network.
The aim here is not to create an urban museum or make strong statements to preserve the past, the aim is to develop workable design guidelines that allow for development to integrate the restoration and preservation of an urban historic district, such as lower downtown, into the process of growth and change.
The existing character, architectural content and the diversity of land use make it difficult to propose a general design development plan for the entire site.
To apply the general visual and physical principles, as outlined earlier, to the pedestrian activity of lower downtown, it must be done with careful alterations of the basic components to insure a continued and carefully balanced system. If too much emphasis is placed on the physical and visual needs, a significant loss would occur to the existing character of lower downtown.
I saw a need to develop basic systems or components that could unify as well as identify the pedestrian environment of lower downtown, limited to the sidewalk.
These basic components would be:

Unifying Element
By maintaining a consistent flagstone curb throughout serving as a visual "spine" that unifies all pedestrian areas.
By installing a flagstone or brick paving width from back of curb that varies depending on the total sidewalk width:
On 16 foot wide walks, it would
be a four pattern. On would be a pattern.
foot wide paving 9 foot wide walks it two foot wide paving
This width would serve as a unifying "ribbon" connecting all of lower downtown.
And within this maintained "ribbon" all lightposts, street signs and meters, and where appropriate, plant materials would be located.

Unifying Element
Encourage and maintain a consistent level of pedestrian oriented lighting and a variety that is suitable to the character of lower downtown.
At intersections and midblock crossings or alleys use a 15 toot post and increase the light in tensi ty.
On the remainder ot the block use 10-12 toot post.
Encourage the use ot compatible building lights tor diversity and to intensity activity nodes.

Unifying Element
The third element would be to encourage and provide structural interaction adjacent to the walkway both visually: with color, texture, scale, windows, awnings, appropriate signage; and physically with retail or entertainment functions geared toward the pedestrian.
Encourage "eyes" on the street and minimize or eliminate areas of continuous faceless" walls.

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To further identify and delineate these components or systems a matrix was developed. This matrix includes the five sidewalk systems that are then combined with the design elements of paving, lighting, building function, plant materials and signage.
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The basic paving component consisting o-f a flagstone curb and four foot paving ribbon. At intersections this paving module would be widened up to the building right of way.
Ne>;t would be a structural module beginnning 16 feet from every corner right of way and every 24 feet throughout the length of the block. This module would be 16 feet long and within all components* intensified lighting, information kiosks, plant materials, seating, sign posts and trash receptacles could be located.
The final paving module that occurs on the 16 foot sidewalks
A continuous flagstone curb
1007. coverage of flagstone or brick
70% coverage with flagstone or brick
20% coverage of flagstone or brick
The remaining material would be concrete


16' SIDEWALK Basic Paving Component

Structural Module

Paving Module

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Sidewalk Component

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Design Concept Paving


Again the basic paving component consisting of a flagstone curb but the paving ribbon becomes a two foot wide area. At intersections this paving module would widen to the building right of way.
The structural module woLild begin 28 feet from every corner right of way and every 30 feet throughout the length of the block. The structural module is now eight feet long and within it, all components: intensified lighting, information signs, sign posts, trash receptacles could be located.
The final paving module that occurs on the 9 foot sidewalk:
A continuous flagstone curb
100/. coverage of flagstone or brick
70% coverage with flagstone or brick
20% coverage of flagstone or brick
The remaining material would be con Crete
Because of the limitations of the nine foot sidewalk in regards to capacity with numbers of people. (Remember the actual width of the usable walkway is four feet wide.) The addition of plant materials to an already congested pathway increases the barrier effect. One way to allow for plant materials as well as a visual break would be to introduce sidewalk expansions midblock or in key locations.
Plant materials would not only serve as relief from sun and glare, and offer seasonal variety of color and form, plant materials would define and provide enclosed horizontal spaces. The majority of the nine foot walkways are lined with the bulky four story or more warehouse buildings. The size of the buildings, combined with a narrow, congested walkway contribute to an atmosphere of "overwhelming" the pedes tri an.
Parking is another critical element in lower downtown, and on the majority of existing nine foot sidewalk systems it is head-in angle type. Removal of the parking would only create problems elsewhere and perhaps decrease any pedestrian use of the walkways. Parked cars can often serve as a physical safety buffer or psychological barrier between moving traffic and pedestrians.

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Structural Module

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Locate Lighting Within Component
Sidewalk Component

Design Concept Paving

An alternative could be to eliminate the head-in parking and replace it with parallel parking. This in combination with periodic sidewalk expansions would change the feeling of congestion along the nine foot walkway.

The loading docks of lower downtown, in most cases, are a physical detriment to the pedestrian in terms of access and continuity. With scattered structural renovation occuring on blocks where the loading docks exist, some walks have already been totally removed or significantly altered while others continue the use of loading/un-loading. This has compounded the access and continuity problems, and begins to alter the physical and historical character and relationship to the building that is so important in the primary loading dock areas, the north end of Blake and Market Streets and the majority of Wynkoop Street.
Because of this scattered structural renovation it is difficult to propose design guidelines that could apply to an entire block, or area, of loading docks. It is important to develop an overall land use plan for the remaining dock areas. Future development proposals for these blocks would perhaps realize the historical impor tance of the docks as well as the contribution to the character, and any proposals should address the impact to the overall block length, not only the bui1ding.
Design alternatives presented here assume an entire block is being alter-ed/upgraded to allow and promote pedestrian use.

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As stated earlier parking lots exist at almost every intersection in lower downtown. With increased development activity and the price of land increasing as it is, corner or open lots will start to diminish. I-f however some do remain, a simple solution would be to -furnish a bu-f-fer along the sidewalk consisting of plant materials, seating where necessary, or appropriate, trash receptacles. Adequate lighting and a low screen fence or wall not higher than four feet. This treatment would reinforce the continuity of the sidewalk edge.

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To reiterate the design objectives for the pedestrian area in lower downtowns
To develop a pedestrian hierarchy of movement separate but not isolated from the vehicular aspects and one that addresses the issues of pedestrian safety and comfort.
To form a relationship incorporating the elements of a pedestrian network into the whole system.
To encourage links and connections to the contiguous pedestrian environment of Denver.
To maintain and continue to encourage diverse land use to exist throughout the district.
To encourage redevelopment that includes pedestrian oriented activity on the street level.
And once again to reinforce the idea that all these design elements need to be carefully interwoven, and as much as possible the individuality and character of the area needs to be preserved. The existing conditions of the pedestrian paths enhance the unique qualities of lower downtown with the mixture of flagstone, brick, Belgian block and concrete for paving, these textural qualities should be carefully mai ntai ned.
The existing walkways are as much a part of the historic character of lower downtown as the buildings that they connnect to. Care in their preservation and concern with a balance of the physical and visual principles must vbe undertaken to retain the total intimacy and quality of this special pi ace.

Alexander, Christopher. "A Pattern Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.
Ballou, Robert C. "The Uptown Pedestrian, An Urban Design Study for The Chariotte/Mecklenburg Planning Commission". 1978.
Barth, Gunther. Instant Cities". New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.
Blake, Peter. "God's Own Junkyard, The Planned Deterioration of America's Landscape". New York, Chicago, and San Francisco: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964.
Cassady, Neal. "The First Third, A Partial Autobiography and Other Writings". San Francisco City Lights Books.
Clay, Grady. "Close Up: How to Read the American City". New York: Praegar Publishers, 1973.
Denver Planning Office. "Lower Downtown". City and County of Denver, 1978.
Design Council. "Streets Ahead". New York: Whitney Library of Design, New York Billboard Publications, Inc.
Eisely, Loren. "All the Strange Hours". Adaptation appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 7, 1975.
Halprin, Lawrence. "Cities". Rheinold Publishing Co., 1973.
Hecksher, August. "Open Spaces: The Life of American Cities". New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1977.
Jacobs, Jane. "Death and Life of Great American Cities". New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 1961.
Lincoln Planning Department, "Downtown Lincoln Work Papers".
New Bedford Planning Department. "New Bedford, Massachusetts Study".
Noel, Thomas J. "Denver's Larimer Street: Main Street, Skid Road and
Urban Renaissance". Historic Denver Inc., 1981.
Phillips, Morgan. "The Philosophy of Total Preservation". APT Journal, Vol. Ill, No. 1, 1971.
Rudofsky, Bernard. "Streets for People: A Primer for Americans". Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Co.
Tunnard, Christopher. "The City of Man." New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1970.
Whyte, William H. "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces". Washington D.C.: Conservation Foundation, 1980.