Sunday, May 16, 2004

More letters: Fountain Square

Try building around small businesses

My suggestion for redoing Fountain Square is to make not only the plaza into a pedestrian area, but the entire area around it. Stop all through traffic on Fifth and Sixth Streets (from Race Street to at least Walnut Street) and Vine and Walnut Streets (from Fourth Street to Seventh Street). Eliminate the skywalk in that area.

Encourage small businesses and restaurants to open directly on this pedestrian area. If large businesses want to occupy some of that area, they would have to conform to the small business atmosphere concept.

I have experienced such pedestrian areas in various cities, mostly in Europe, and they seemed to be well-liked by shoppers. They can wander from shop to shop without concern for traffic, and there were sufficient places to buy food and sit in the plaza to eat, like giant open-air food courts.

The last such pedestrian street that I visited was in Copenhagen, Denmark - it was about a mile long and had many shops and small restaurants, and was quite busy even though it was the middle of the week in May.

I believe the mistake that city of Cincinnati has made in the past is to concentrate on getting one large department store or business to come into the downtown area, with the expectation that "this one business" would be a big enough drawing card to make the downtown area hum with excitement. Obviously it hasn't, so why not change tactics and try a broader approach?

Cletus J. Holtgrefe, Mason


Block off traffic, think entertainment

Following are several of my suggestions for our revised future Fountain Square:

1. Permanently block off all traffic on Fifth Street between Vine and Walnut streets. To prevent the traffic that had been traveling in that block from moving very far out of its way to get to its destination, turn Sixth Street between Vine and Walnut streets into a two-way street. This street can easily accommodate this requirement if parking were not allowed.

2. Build skywalks all the way around the perimeter of the Fountain Square block. Have the skywalks wide enough to accommodate tables and chairs on both sides, with middle aisles for walking. The skywalks would be covered with plastic or glass to allow comfortable eating during all four seasons. That would necessitate cafeteria-style eateries and/or restaurants with servers.

3. Establish about one-fifth of the Fountain Square block to be used for children, with several kinds of playground equipment. In addition, there would be included three or four moving rides that normally would cost money but would be free for children.

4. Fill Fountain Square with lights, used for such times as the Christmas and Valentine's seasons, or the Reds or Bengals getting to the playoffs, or for the simple beauty of the sun or moon rising or setting. Also, have recorded music played almost all day and evening according to the season and mood.

5. Because this square is called Fountain Square, the whole block should have different objects such as various fish, animals, and characters such as the Seven Dwarfs strategically located throughout the block spouting colored water.

All five of the above suggestions would certainly draw more people of all ages for longer periods of time to our beloved Fountain Square.

Ronald V. Armor, Deer Park


Look at Louisville on what not to do

I found the May 9 Forum article on Fountain Square to be insightful into the design and future of what seems to be a historic focal point of Cincinnati society. One reader suggested closing Fifth Street to all but pedestrian traffic as a means to help revitalize the square.

Cincinnati just needs to look 100 miles to the southwest to see how such a maneuver flopped in Louisville.

The downtown Galleria was meant to revitalize the Fourth Street theater district, and part of Fourth Street was enclosed and limited to pedestrian traffic. This design flopped and a huge revitalization project is under way now.

According to the (Louisville) Courier-Journal, a feature of the new design is that two-way traffic will be permitted during times of normal business, but the area will be closed for large events.

Cincinnati should take this suggestion into consideration when deciding what the traffic flow will be like in the heart of downtown while revitalizing Fountain Square.

Hal Jankowski, Lexington, Ky.

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