In case you might be thinking the Champs-Elysées is a bit far fetched, OK, did you know Whalley Avenue, one of three New Haven avenues with the audacity to honor 17th c. regicides, is exactly the same width, curb to curb, as the Esplanade in New Orleans (the Esplanade differs only in that buildings set back more from the curb than those on Whalley). You’d never guess the two streets were the same by looking. Poetry and dramatic arts get written on the Esplanade, tires get changed on Whalley.
Significantly, the Esplanade, and all the other avenues in New Orleans for that matter, were very intentional, the French invention of Adrien de Pauger in the 18th century. As with Route 34, intentional is the key word missing from Whalley.
In point of fact, Whalley Avenue, along with partners-in-crime Goffe and Dixwell, started out lending intention to the city, bringing order and dynamism to first ring residential neighborhoods as they fanned out from Elm Street and downtown. But those valiant intentions are entirely obscured today.
If one were to put on an intentional de Pauger brain, the original potential of Whalley Avenue might very well be reborn, achieving exactly the same heightened desirability as the Esplanade offers its surrounds.
Once again, private development can take on leadership (and pick up the tab) for street transformations if, if codes are re-written to demand intentional street forming configurations (it’s the streets dummy, not the buildings). The sheer breadth of such codes raises the desirability of all properties in the subject area, making even small properties worthy investments. Simply stated, suddenly the gate to development drops to where even small scale lower capitalized investors can turn a profit. The predictability of guided processes means that all participants, regardless of access to wealth, become positive contributors, piece by piece healing, joining and organizing the disjointed forlorn parts we see now into desirable wholes.
Here’s the Esplanade superimposed on Whalley, at the same scale.
Cities are finding that first steps to intentionally have to include changed thinking. The long accepted standard of making streets safe for cars where people are interlopers, has to change to a new standard of making streets safe and comfortable for people where cars are the interlopers. Desirability inevitably follows when the value of people gets promoted to the head of the class.
Instead of people nervously trying to survive in a car world, as they do on auto-centric Whalley today...
desirability magically materializes when the car-first standard flips to make cars drive cautiously in a people world, as on people-centric Esplanade today...