During a lively meeting at the T or C brewery on Thursday Dec 20th, around 35 community members showed up to hear about the Great Blocks project and offer preliminary ideas for upgrading the stretch of Foch Street between Main and Broadway downtown.
The meeting began with architect Robert Loftis and landscape designer Tess Houle of MRWM explaining the scope of the project and some of the challenges of Foch Street.
The grant only covers creation of “shovel-ready” construction documents, and can only be used for public infrastructure like streets, sidewalks, parks, seating, shade, and so on. No private property or building facades will be addressed, though in some cases, the architectural firm might make suggestions to building and land owners about compatible and attractive changes they may wish to consider.
Concerns about the high water table, high mineral content, and utility infrastructure were noted. The state Department of Transportation and Historic Preservation Office will have requirements that may cause complexity. And the Americans With Disabilities Act will govern many aspects of the project.
The goals of the project are to:
- create comfortable, ADA-compliant pedestrian amenities
- encourage visitors to explore the downtown
- maximize parking, balanced pedestrian experience
- improve drainage issues
- find locations for public art and wayfinding signage
- celebrate the culture of T or C
With their presentation complete, the remainder of the meeting solicited ideas from community members. Ideas included:
- improve flooding issues, capture rainwater for trees/plants
- green spaces, pocket parks, green walls
- art installations, a place for public performances
- remove power poles or at least move them out of middle of sidewalks
- bury electrical lines
- use vines and arbors for shade
- attractive lighting compatible with Dark Skies legislation
- traffic-calming with trees and bump-outs for pedestrians
- make Foch a pedestrian mall. Alternately, plan for it to be easily closed for special events.
- make Foch a one-way street (downhill)
- benches – in shade, or that somehow don’t get hot in the sun
- amenities for mobility-impaired individuals
- plug-ins for electric cars
The presenters emphasized that no ideas were “bad” at this early stage. Every idea has pros and cons, they explained, and now was the time to make space for a wide range of visions.
On the topic of shade, they explained that shade from trees is always cooler than from a built structure, but trees present challenges. The perfect street tree grows large, but not too large, grows and drops its shade-giving leaves at the right times of year, creates no sidewalk buckling issues, requires little to no watering or other attention, does not drop messy fruits, has no thorns or other hazards, does not attract insects, and, on Foch Street, can tolerate the high water table and high mineral content of the downtown area. There are only a few species that can do all of the above.
The meeting ended and attendees were invited up to speak with the professionals personally and review site analysis posters on easels at the front of the room.
MRWM and MainStreet will announce the time and place of the next public meeting, at which sketches will be offered, after the first of the year.
Presentation slides from the meeting are below:
Anyone with ideas, concerns, or suggestions for redesigning Foch Street may contact the architect directly:
Robert Loftis, MRWM Landscape Architects, 1102 Mountain Rd NW, Suite 201, Albuquerque, NM, 87102, 505-268-2266, fax 505-2659637 or firstname.lastname@example.org.