Thursday, September 23, 2010

Street Walking

I find inspiration in things that other people do. Here are a few nice places I’ve run across in Wisconsin downtowns lately.

Of course this is just my 2 cents but I think proper infill is key to making the whole picture work. This is a new building or at least a new built façade that was well done to fit the neighborhood.  It's not that tough to make new buildings look old.

Public art is good. Not sure if there is anything special about this piece in general but I like the color and life that it brings to a space that is pretty much bricks and mortar.

I love what they have done with this bar. The front windows slide completely open which creates an outdoor bar. In the summer they pull barstools right up to the front window. Click on photos to see more detail.  Downtown Sheboygan.

The streetscape is huge, huge, huge to me. Planters, trees and streetlights make such a big difference in creating a sense of place. Scale is important.  Most city planters are much too small in comparison to the buildings on the street.  These are simple and grand in scale.  Nothing special as far as the containers go but the plantings are great.  I would ditch their logo but all in all a pretty good example.  It makes the street come alive. It brings natural color. I have yet to see a downtown with too many living things…

This restaurant is inviting. Beautiful façade, spotless windows, and when the place is open the front windows are filled with people enjoying a dinner. If it were mine I would always fill the window seats first. Notice the scale and placement of the overhead sign. More on that later.

A good street clock. A fitting addition to a historic streetscape.

Another good sign. Not oversized but plenty large enough to see when driving but especially walking. In my opinion the key to a successful downtown is to create a place that appeals to walking. Remember the size and placement of the signs when we were a movie set?  The overall picture of the downtown needs to get people out of their cars. Huge signs hanging off every building looks like clutter.  Not inviting when driving through. Think big picture view to appeal to motorists. Then think pedestrian when putting up signs. People on their feet are much easier to get in your store than people in their cars.

When I’m downtown I will see cars lined up for blocks waiting to get through Columbus. How many stop?  Not many.  We have great bones but no sense of place.  There is no life.  People don’t typically pull their cars over because they see a sign. They stop because they see a place that they want to experience in person. Trees, flowers and beautiful buildings will stop cars.  Not big ass signs.  Where is the sign on this business?  Can't really see it driving by but this business has been open in downtown Sheboygan for as long as I can remember.  Something must be working.  It's inviting.

Think big picture to capture people in a car. Window displays play a huge part in that. A simple, well lit window display catches your eye as you drive by. Especially in the evening. This entire historic building is intact which adds to the visual interest when passing by in your car. Now imagine this without the tree and the traditional streetlight. They add dimension, color and and a sense of style to the street.

Thoughts for the day.  Have a great weekend!


  1. Great examples of what a beautiful downtown can look like. I hop Columbus can look like these one day soon!

  2. Well- isn't this just interesting as hell! You only get one comment when you do a positive blog entry...but the negative ones get all the attention- that just sucks! Come on people- where are you now???? This just proves to me that most people just want to complain and whine but don't care enough to join the POSITVE wagon- how sad!

  3. Kim - Maybe everyone moved to the cities in the photos...

  4. I work for CBS News/48 Hours and we're working on a story about the Marilyn McIntyre/Curtis Forbes case. I'm looking for any video of Columbus from the early 1980s. If you have any suggestions for where I might find some, I look forward to hearing from you.

    Dena Goldstein