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Public Works Listens to Residents of Uphams Corner

Public Works Plan to be Unveiled at April 10 Community Meeting

Public Works DeptPublic Works has scheduled an Uphams Corner community meeting for 6PM Wed, April 10, at the Cape Verdean Daycare Center on Hancock Street at which they will be presenting a new design for the Uphams Corner Streetscape Improvement Project.

The Project Sub-Committee met with Public Works on April 3 to review the new design. At different points in the meeting, sub-committee members lauded Zach Wassmouth, Principal Civil Engineer for the project. "Public Works listened to us."

The Uphams Corner Improvement Project spans the one-block section of Columbia Road from the Strand Theatre (Hancock Street) to Dudley Street. The project's goal is to create a welcoming and safe streetscape for both residents and visitors to Uphams Corner, especially those attending Strand Theatre events.


Approval of Plan Shape

Wednesday's meeting has one goal, Zach said, and that is to get approval of the overall shape of the plan while "programming" conversations can and will continue beyond the April 10 meeting.

"The design being proposed represents a geometry that doesn't preclude the potential future installation of bicycle lanes," which was one of the primary issues raised at the Feb 12 public meeting. Right now," he stated, "people in Uphams Corner prefer to keep the parking. From an operational perspective, if the winds change and everyone wants to have a bike lane at the expense of parking, then just change the pavement marks."

Zach's comments about parking versus bicycle lanes reflects one of the "hotter" issues that riled some residents at the Feb 12 meeting - namely eliminating badly needed business parking only to install bicycle lanes for people who do not shop in Uphams Corner anyway. For the residents and businesses of Uphams Corner, this did not make a lot of sense.


Uphams Corner Streetscape Design features:

  • New sidewalks of concrete (eliminating the uneven and dangerous brick) with a brick edge strip (for aesthetics),
  • Mid-block crosswalk connecting the bus stop at Bank of America with the new bus stop in front of Citizens Bank,
  • Median strip from Dudley Street up close to the new crosswalk and 4' or higher barrier (fence)
  • New bus stop in front of Citizens Bank
  • Elimination of the bus stop at Dudley and Columbia Rd
  • Signage coordinated with the BRA
  • Other minor changes to the shape of the sidewalks (some bump outs and decorative elements)
  • Maintains most of the existing parking

Median Strip Remains Controversial

What remains controversial is the median strip. The current design is 4-6 feet wide, all concrete with a 4' or higher fence (barrier) to keep pedestrians from crossing Columbia Rd randomly.

Proponents of extending greenery along the Emerald Necklace, which includes Columbia Road, are opposed to the concrete approach. "But the City is unwilling to take on any additional Parks Department maintenance responsibilities." In other words, if flowers, bushes and trees are wanted in Uphams Corner, someone other than the City is going to have to maintain them - a Friends group, for example.

If Uphams Corner residents, businesses and non-profits are unwilling to step up to create and maintain "green," then what Uphams Corner will get is maintenance free concrete.


Resident / Stakeholder Feedback Needed

What's important at this stage of the Public Works planning process is that residents attend the April 10 meeting.
  • Hear the plan details directly from Public Works
  • Examine carefully the plan's visual renderings
  • Come prepared to ask questions and grow comfortable
  • Come prepared to make suggestions as appropriate

History of this Project

The April 10 meeting will be the third public meeting held on this project.
  • On December 11, 2012, Public Works unveiled the City's project.
  • At the February 12, 2013 meeting, Zach Wassmouth presented a more detailed proposal
One issue that bothered residents was the City's insistence that Columbia Road would have bike lanes. Not that the residents were opposed to bike lanes but rather bike lanes meant that 50% of the business parking spaces would be eliminated. For a community that does not have much bicycle traffic, the loss of parking for its businesses seemed ill-configured.

The second objection raised was the proposal to locate a bus shelter outside the large glass show windows of 588 Columbia Rd (close to the intersection with Dudley Street). Doing so, one business owner stated, would ruin the possibility of locating a quality restaurant on the first floor of that building.

At the close of the meeting, Para Jayasinghe, also from Public Works, helped calm the residents still "up in arms" about the proposal. He assured them that Public Works would incorporate their feedback into a new design, one that was more accommodating to the needs of the residents of Uphams Corner.

Residents attending the meeting on April 10 will have an opportunity to judge for themselves if Public Works has followed through with their promises.


Photos

Posted: April 5, 2013 Nancy J Conrad


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