Creating Our Own Champs-Elysées

BY ELIZABETH HOLDEN
March 1, 2010

After learning about new plans for San Francisco's public realm—widened sidewalks and bike lanes on Cesar Chavez Street and throughout the Mission District, a complete makeover of Fisherman’s Wharf—it was time to tackle a public space issue ourselves: Market Street.

SPUR teamed up with Next American City and the AIA to host an interactive charrette.  Building on the Better Market Street Project, we brainstormed the transformation of Market into our city's grand boulevard and anchor.

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[Image: Nelson Nygaard]

Jeff Tumlin of Nelson Nygaard kicked things off with an outline of what makes a great street: it invites participation, teems with people and offers transparency.  It challenges our assumptions, inspires and surprises, plays with light and shadow and makes us feel sexy. 

Brimming with sexy ideas, focus groups scattered to various corners of the urban center.  Kim Havens of Wilson Meany Sullivan led the Commerce (Planning and Development) discussion and Karin Flood Eklund of MJM Management led Commerce (Shopping).  Tim Papandreou of the SF Municipal Transportation Agency and Neal Patel (pictured) of the SF Bike Coalition facilitated the transit and bike conversations, and Jill Manton of the Public Arts Commission and Kit Hodge of the Great Streets Project took on public art and public space.

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[Image: Colleen McHugh]

An interesting theme emerged: to achieve our goals, groups needed to work together.  Sure, there were some specific requests, such as dedicated bus lanes and stop consolidation (transit) and regular exhibitions (public art).  But the majority of ideas required a partnership.  Commerce and public space needed help from public art programming to draw in crowds.  Public art needed help from public space and transit for fresh new locations for work.  Obviously successful transit and bike systems required cooperation.  And the list went on.

So can we make Market Street an avenue of constant activity, our own Champs-Elysées?  According to this charrette, if we work together, then yes.