Consultants look to reimagine downtown Hammond

HAMMOND — A safer, more vibrant and pedestrian-friendly Hohman Avenue — coupled with the planned train station — will help shape the future of the city’s downtown.

That’s according to a draft master plan unveiled Tuesday night by Speck and Associates, a highly sought after consulting firm hired last year to generate ideas for the downtown district.

At least 130 people attended the standing-room-only presentation at Towle Theater, where Jeff Speck, author of "Walkable City: How Downtown Saves America, One Step at a Time," revealed proposals for street reconfigurations, housing developments and retrofitted use of older buildings

Planner says Hammond’s ‘bones are really good’ in effort to reimagine downtown

City planner Jeff Speck, left, and David D. Dixon, vice president and director of Stantec Urban Places, speak about their plans for Hammond's downtown on Aug. 8, 2019. (Kyle Telechan / Post-Tribune)

City planner Jeff Speck, left, and David D. Dixon, vice president and director of Stantec Urban Places, speak about their plans for Hammond's downtown on Aug. 8, 2019. (Kyle Telechan / Post-Tribune)

Creating a new, vibrant downtown Hammond involves bringing together a multitude of elements from street redesigns to repurposing current vacant buildings and empty lots.

That’s the message and mission for a team led by Jeff Speck, a city planner and urban designer based in Brookline, Massachusetts, who advocates for more walkable cities.

Speck and team member David D. Dixon, vice president of Boston-based Stantec Urban Places, spent a week in Hammond earlier this month working on revisions to the master plan “Transforming Downtown Hammond,” sponsored by the city’s Department of Economic Development.

On Aug. 6, the pair presented a draft of that master plan to a group of officials and Hammond residents who filled the Towle Theater.

The great green way

Small parts of Broadway have been converted into pedestrian walkways and lounge areas. Why not go all the way? (Antonelli, Ron)

Small parts of Broadway have been converted into pedestrian walkways and lounge areas. Why not go all the way? (Antonelli, Ron)

New York is the most sustainable city in the nation. The average New Yorker generates less than one third the greenhouse gases of the average American. Yet, look around Manhattan and, aside from Central Park, there is very little green on display.

Ironically, it is New York's very density and lack of natural interruptions to its urban grid that make it so walkable — and therefore so sustainable. The city's largely continuous intensity of shopfront after shopfront, lobby after lobby and stoop after stoop invite walking like no other, turning its residents into our country's greenest citizens. Yet, most of New York remains resolutely, well, gray.

This doesn't seem fair. A city with such a green footprint deserves more green spaces, spaces that could be enjoyed by its citizens on an everyday basis, without having to make the trek to Central Park. If only there was a way to dramatically increase the supply of natural landscape in Manhattan without interrupting its tremendously walkable grid.

There is a way. It's called Broadway.

US Expert: Chile’s infra planning falling into 'traffic fallacy'

Chilean capital Santiago and many other major cities in developing countries are repeating mistakes made in the past by US metropolises by prioritizing private vehicles when planning transport infrastructure, city planning expert Jeff Speck (pictured) warns.

During an urban planning conference organized by the Chilean construction chamber (CChC), the founder of urban design consultancy Speck & Associates told BNamericas that developing cities are falling into what he called “traffic fallacy,” when city streets and highways are given additional lanes under the premise that doing so will reduce congestion.

Instead, Speck says that doing so creates “induced traffic" where people that did not previously use private vehicles because of the congestion end up using widened roads and the demand for which the new lanes were designed is exceeded.

“When you expand the highways, you invite more driving,” he says, adding that Santiago’s upcoming AVO expressway is an example of such a problem in action.

Cities benefit from restoring two-way traffic

Two-way streets prove safer, more walkable, and more supportive of business than one-way streets for Midwestern cities.   ROBERT STEUTEVILLE  JUL. 9, 2019

Two-way streets prove safer, more walkable, and more supportive of business than one-way streets for Midwestern cities.

ROBERT STEUTEVILLE JUL. 9, 2019

Midwestern cities report significant success restoring two-way traffic on one-way streets. New Albany, Indiana, switched more than four miles of city streets while implementing traffic-calming measures made possible by the conversions. Police Chief Wm. Todd Bailey reports that the two-way street designs are “overwhelmingly” superior in the following respects:

  • Accidents involving pedestrians are down.

  • Speeding is reduced. The previous one-way configurations allowed motorists to travel “well above posted speed limits,” Bailey says, whereas the new designs “have slowed traffic as planned.”

  • Motor vehicle crashes are down, especially injury crashes, compared to previous years.

  • In general, the streets work better. “It has been our observation that the new designs allow for motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians to all interact in a much smoother manner,” he says. “Additionally, due to the new design, when we experience a problem, we are provided with more options to redirect traffic. The design has also facilitated a better response from police and fire as those options have multiplied.”

Bold Corridor Attracts Investment

Carmel, Indiana, builds a high-quality public realm at the heart of its new Midtown district.   ROBERT STEUTEVILLE

Carmel, Indiana, builds a high-quality public realm at the heart of its new Midtown district.

ROBERT STEUTEVILLE

Carmel, Indiana, a suburb of more than 90,000 people bordering on Indianapolis, is building a walkable urban downtown to fit its growing population and economy. 

Main Street and the Arts and Design District have already been revitalized with restaurants and art galleries. City Center, a half mile to the south, is a world class performing arts complex built by the city. Between the two is a former industrial area where the city is promoting mixed-use development—including new headquarters of corporations that are relocating to the city. 

Work restoring two-way streets in downtown Cedar Rapids nears end

Work begins last week on converting Third Avenue SE near Greene Square from one-way to two-way traffic. It marks the final downtown street to undergo the conversions that began in 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Work begins last week on converting Third Avenue SE near Greene Square from one-way to two-way traffic. It marks the final downtown street to undergo the conversions that began in 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids is nearing the end of its multiyear U-turn away from downtown one-way streets.

Last week, crews tore out sidewalk ramps and bump-outs along Third Avenue SE near Greene Square in the first steps to prepare for two-way traffic — something motorists haven’t seen there in half a century.

While a few two-way projects remain in the city’s planning hopper, Third Avenue SE is the final downtown street to undo the one-way conversions that took place in 1950s Cedar Rapids.

What’s the real cost of new freeways in Houston?

When drivers on Waugh approach the intersection with Allen Parkway, they can turn east toward downtown without having to stop or slow down. It’s called a “slip lane.”

Pedestrians crossing there into Buffalo Bayou Park, though, do have to stop and slow down. When I walk to the park to exercise, I crane over my shoulder and try to guess whether drivers will stay speeding north or turn east through the slip lane, and I wait for my chance at the crosswalk. There’s a yield sign, of course, and there’s also a Texas law that requires drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. But there’s not much yielding going on. So I have to rush to the hunk of concrete in the intersection called a “refuge island,” hide behind the signal pole, say a prayer to the patron saint of vulnerable road users and then hurry across a few more lanes into the park. Who needs cardio after an exercise like that?