Why doesn’t our Waterfront spur more development and attract more residents and visitors?
Project for Public Spaces would probably conclude that Windsor’s Riverfront is an underused waterfront park with too much passive space that doesn’t connect to enough destinations or have any programming beyond the summer season.
In the end its a strong argument about why the canal project is so necessary, the riverfront park would connect it to odette sculpture garden, festival plaza, the casino, downtown, bert weeks memorial garden getting us closer to the power of ten.
We all know and love Windor’s waterfront as the “jewel” of the city of roses, but what if we take off the rose colored glasses. How would outsiders evaluate our riverfront. Project for Public Spaces has a lot to say about waterfront development and reading their material might offer some perspective on what our waterfront leaves to be desired and how we can make it better.
As humans we are naturally drawn to explore the water’s edge, which makes it deeply disappointing when all we find there is a highway, fenced-off industrial facilities or, just as bad, a mediocre shopping mall or underused park.
A waterfront project opens up the debate about the soul of a city for all to see.
Making the transition from working waterfront to public gathering place is full of challenges, be it providing public access or identifying the activities best suited to a particular community and place. Today, more and more cities and towns are boldly taking on these challenges.
Start here at the Great Waterfronts of the World. How about the pedestrian bridge planned for the canal vision. Click on the picture in the link below and see some of the worlds greatest pedestrian bridges
1. Create multiple destinations: The Power of Ten
PPS has found that an effective way to structure a vision process is to set a goal of creating ten great destinations along the entire waterfront, an idea we call the “Power of Ten.” This focus on destinations, rather than “open space” or parks, enables a genuine community-led process to take root. Once ten destinations have been identified, then nearby residents, businesses, community organizations and other stakeholders begin to define the uses and activities they want to see at each place. Ideally, each destination should provide ten things to do, which creates diverse, layered activity, ensuring that no single use will predominate.
This process is open-ended–so that the result can fulfill the hopes of people involved in the process. This cannot happen when it is assumed from the outset that the goal is to build, say, a park, which may narrow the range of possible outcomes and prevent some of the best ideas from ever seeing the light of day.
4. Connect the destinations
The next idea to keep in mind is that each of the ten destinations should be incorporated into a vision for the waterfront as a whole. The key is to achieve continuity, especially when it comes to the pedestrian experience. A walkable waterfront with a wide variety of activity along it will successfully connect destinations, allowing each to strengthen the others. Creating these connections is a fascinating challenge that entails mixing uses (such as housing, parks, entertainment and retail) and mixing partners (such as public institutions and local business owners).
Creating connections also means enticing people to the waterfront on foot or bike, rather than relying exclusively on the car. Helsinki, Finland, possesses perhaps the best example of this kind of connection–The Esplanade, which masterfully leads from the heart of the city down to the water. Lined with trees and flower displays, the path is a gentle lure, rewarding us with a magnificent plaza with sweeping, unobstructed views of the harbor. It guides you on a pleasurable stroll straight to the waterfront’s main destination.
8. Use parks to connect destinations, not as destinations unto themselves
In a similar vein, parks should not serve as the raison d’être of the entire waterfront. Passive open space puts a damper on the inherent vibrancy of waterfronts, evident in cities such as New York, Vancouver, and Toronto that have relied too heavily on “greening” their waterfronts without mixing uses that draw people for different reasons at different times. The world’s best waterfronts use parks as connective tissue, using them to link major destinations together. Helsinki, Stockholm, Sydney, and Baltimore have employed this strategy to fine effect.
11. Integrate seasonal activities into each destination
Rain or cold is no reason for a waterfront to sit empty. Indeed coastal and lakefront places are often known for their chilly winds and gray skies. Waterfront programming should take rainy-day and winter activities into account, and amenities should provide protection from inclement weather. Waterfronts that can thrive in year-round conditions will reap the benefits of greater economic activity and higher attendance at public facilities.
In another article PPS talks about mistakes that you can make
Mistake #3: Too Much Passive Space or Too Much Recreation
Passive areas where people can sit or stroll are successful when they connect to destinations where more activities are available, forming a diverse whole. But when the waterfront is limited to natural areas, which are often seen as a healthy contrast to the city, the place loses the vibrant qualities that draw many people to the water. By the same token, recreational activities that use up a large amount of space, like playing fields, are especially difficult to integrate into a waterfront if you want to have a lively setting throughout different times of day and different seasons. Natural areas and recreational areas work best when mixed with other sorts of destinations.
In the end, I would conclude that the downtown marina and canal project would go a long way to addressing these concerns. It creates a new destination on our riverfront. It turns our park into a corridor that connects destinations along that waterfront.