Best of Carbondale: The Town Square
Last week I wrote a post about the importance of aesthetics. I am going to expand on that by highlighting a particularly attractive part of town. The town square is my favorite part of town – especially the 100 block of East Jackson St.
I want to point out the features of the block’s design that make it so appealing. Urban design is important because it affects how we use public space and how we feel about our spaces. This area is an example of what Carbondale needs more of.
The orientation of the buildings is key to the area’s appeal. The buildings face the street and are built to the front and side lot lines. Parking is on the side of the building, on the street, and (unfortunately) across the street on the town square.
It is also important that the buildings themselves are attractive. They are built of brick, which communicates stability and permanence. There are plenty of windows, which are more interesting than the blank walls common today. There are decorative elements like cornices and bay windows, which are frequently absent on newer buildings.
There is commercial space on the first floor containing four locally owned businesses: Longbranch Coffeehouse, Global Gourmet, The Arthur Agency, and the Town Square Market. All the businesses have awnings and large windows that allow employees and patrons to see out and pedestrians to see in. The buildings also have second floors that could be used for apartments or offices.
The sidewalk is interesting too and is a major factor in the block’s feel:
There are mature street trees planted in a tidy row. The sidewalk is wide enough to accommodate both pedestrians and tables in front of Longbranch and the Town Square Market. Street parking encloses the sidewalk and provides protection from passing cars. The brick street slows traffic, as does the street parking. Even the wastebaskets are decorative rather than merely utilitarian.
This block is so well designed, it’s hard to think of ideas to improve it. One idea would be the addition of decorative lamp posts. Another would be to bury the utility lines. Otherwise, this block is perfect.
I would like to see future development and redevelopment in the center of town follow this pattern, with some modifications. These buildings weren’t built to accommodate parking, so it was necessary to put a parking lot on the town square. Future buildings could accommodate parking in the rear, ideally using a shared lot. One other modification might be worthwhile – future buildings would probably be better with three stories rather than two.
The major elements of the design of the 100 block of East Jackson St. should be repeated as part of the redevelopment of central Carbondale. Some mayoral candidates have expressed interest in revitalizing the strip. Quality urban design would aid that goal.
Comments are welcome.