News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective
2nd October 2009

City planner wows at breakfast

posted in City Life, Local Groups |

It was early in the day for an hour-long lecture about ways to make downtown more vibrant, but you wouldn’t have known it by the audience as they listened attentively to City Planner Jeff Speck at the Lowell Plan breakfast this morning. Speck visited Lowell this week and presented his thoughts as part of the Lowell Plan’s 30th anniversary celebration. A “private, non-profit economic development organization” comprising many of the city’s top business leaders, the Lowell Plan can point to many contributions to the city’s re-invention over the last three decades. Add this morning’s breakfast to that list.

Speck was one of those speakers we hope our children get in school: inspiring, entertaining, and educational. Some of his points about Lowell: It has a unique and timeless architecture, the canals are an under-utilized resource, and the high school’s downtown location brings a huge benefit of humanity and energy to the city. Other observations: Our downtown is not walker friendly or enticing to pedestrian traffic, there are too many one-way streets and not enough street signs, we have the least bicycle-friendly city he has ever seen (this point especially resonates as someone who loves to bike and is afraid of cars). Speck showed how a four-lane street downtown doesn’t encourage safe walking or biking, but by reducing it to three lanesthe middle for turningthere is room on either side for bicycle lanes. His point about traffic in general: You don’t want people speeding by your downtown; you want them to stop, walk, and shop. For that, you need parallel parking, interesting things to see as you walk, and lots of other folks around. His final message to the group: the Lowell Plan needs a plan, and it should be one that doesn’t make the mistake of duplicating suburban sprawl, but instead builds on the urban beauty and history that is already uniquely ours.

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