We’ve Been Listening Carefully: Here’s what we’re thinking so far

Wednesday was a day packed with meetings with residents and business people to double check what prior research and conversations have suggested. Tonight, Thursday, our designers present for community review our initial responses to what we’ve heard.

Join us at the Special Collections Library, Botts Hall, at 6 p.m. to check our work in progress.

Here are key takeaways from the Wednesday meetings likely to influence design approaches:

To no one’s surprise, folks are frustrated with the congestion caused by the work along Central Avenue in preparation for the new Bus Rapid Transit line. Still, even many who opposed the idea in the first place are in a wait-and-see mode now that the construction is underway. Their resignation, however, is likely to put even more pressure on everyone — City officials, transit advocates and planning and design teams — to demonstrate there will be rewards in the not-so-distant future.

In yesterday’s post, we reported that concerns and hopes seem to fall primarily into three broad categories — neighborhood character, parking and density. Depending upon where we met with residents and business owners on Wednesday, the intensity of ambitions and skepticism under those categories varied.

Many who live and work in places where jobs and shopping choices are minimal seem less worried about parking hassles and increased density provided new infrastructure investment delivers on promised growth. Those who live and work in already popular neighborhoods want assurances that growth is managed in ways that don’t diminish their quality of life. Just about everybody identified the protection of neighborhoods’ historic character as a priority.

What folks are likely to see tonight are the designers’ preliminary attempts to address those issues, recognizing that approaches can’t be one-size-fits-all along the entire Corridor. What we hope to demonstrate is that good design and thoughtful policies can make real differences in not only economic opportunity, but also in improvements in community health and safety and in the simple pleasures of living and working and getting around in places that offer more options for more people.

Delivering on those promises requires using design tools in combination with planning strategies to address concerns that predate new transit proposals. At the top of the list: Public safety. There are time-tested design approaches that can discourage crime. Designing environments that encourage more active life and more eyes on the street is one way. So are lighting techniques and landscaping that provides fewer hiding places. But there’s little doubt that the City’s determination to improve public safety policies will mesh well with design approaches.

Even more in the realm of policy are municipal management practices. Effective parking management will go a long way toward quieting worries in neighborhoods already dealing with influxes of patrons of popular bars and restaurants. And like every organization, whether it’s a private or public sector entity, cities like Albuquerque must continually align the goals of well-thought-out rules with coherent and consistent administration. Great design won’t save unpredictable enforcement.

One of the best suggestions from the Wednesday meetings came from a businessman who spotted the challenges ahead. “We have to answer two questions,” he said. “What do we want to build toward? What do we do now to prepare for that?”

Come see us tonight to see how far we can get to answers those questions.

Got comments on what you’ve experienced so far? Direct them here.