September 23, 2012
Downtown Bozeman is Making the Grade Chris Naumann
I recently read an interesting article about how the health of an urban neighborhood is defined by five basic elements. Howard Blackson, a principle at Placemakers (a national planning and urban design firm), contends that the resilience and quality of life of a downtown district is determined by “the 5 Cs” of being Complete, Compact, Connected, Complex and Convivial. Reflecting on Blackson’s article, here my assessment and report card of how Downtown Bozeman is doing in these important areas.
Complete. A great urban neighborhood includes a balanced mix of places to live, work, play, dine, shop and socialize. Civic spaces often anchor complete neighborhoods. Downtown Bozeman is anchored by many key civic places: the Emerson Cultural Center to the west, City Hall to the north, the Bozeman Public Library to the east; and the Federal Building to the south. In between and adjacent to these civic anchors are a plethora of places to work, shop, dine and live. One aspect in need of improvement is additional residential options of all types in downtown. Therefore, I would give Downtown Bozeman a “B” for being “Complete”.
Compact. Generally compactness is defined in pedestrian terms by what is known as “walkability” or the “ped-shed”. The basic rule of thumb for walkability is less than a five minute walk from the edge of an urban neighborhood to its center or between 9 and 18 city blocks. Downtown Bozeman spans 9 blocks east to west and just 4 blocks north to south. By these terms, downtown has a very tight ped-shed thus earning an “A” for being “Compact”.
Connected. It is universally acknowledged that in order to thrive, a great urban neighborhood must be well connected via all forms of transportation. Downtown Bozeman is certainly accessible by vehicle from various east-west and north-south arterial roads. Once a vehicle arrives downtown there are over 2000 public parking spaces available. Downtown has decent connectivity for pedestrians, although many downtown side streets are in need of upgraded sidewalks. The Bridger Park Garage is a hub for the Streamline bus system, thus providing good public transit access. Bike accessibility to downtown is improving but bike lanes need to be added along Mendenhall and Babcock. With plenty of room for improvement, downtown gets a “C” for being “Connected”.
Convivial. A great urban neighborhood must be friendly, welcoming, and pleasant; or in a word, convivial. This quality is what inspires people to gather and socialize in public, but it takes a combination of attractive and safe public places plus friendly and enjoyable business establishments. Downtown Bozeman, thanks to the efforts of the Business Improvement and Tax Increment Finance districts, has a clean and safe environment that welcomes residents and visitors alike. Downtown’s many coffee shops, bars, restaurants and churches provide numerous gathering places for all types of people and occasions. Downtown Bozeman definitely deserves an “A” for being “Convivial”.
Complex. Downtown Bozeman is complex in terms of being extremely mixed in use. Downtown has everything from a variety of churches to no less than four auto mechanic businesses. Art galleries and clothing stores call downtown home as due three grocery stores and a hardware store. Residents can stop by their bank, work out at the gym, and pick up their laundry with one trip downtown. Downtown Bozeman even has a railroad spur leading to an active granary. Downtown Bozeman has every component of a self-sufficient urban neighborhood thus earning an “A” for being “Complex”.
Downtown Bozeman certainly can be improved upon in terms of having more residential options and being better connect to the rest of the community. Nonetheless, downtown makes the grade with an “A-“ for being complex, convivial, connected, compact and complete.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT THE DOWNTOWN BOZEMAN PARTNERSHIP 406.586.4008 EMAIL DOWNTOWN BOZEMAN
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