Sunday, January 17, 2010

Improving Main Street From The River To Garvin Park

Back in 2001, Evansville conducted and released a master plan of what they would like to see downtown look like. I would have loved to have served the city as a committee member back then and some of my ideas take a master plan idea and improve it. Such is the case for Main Street. If you look on pages 36-42 of the master plan you will see what was recommended for Main Street in the master plan:

I will start with my ideas for Main Street in the riverfront area and move northward.

First of all, I thought it was a terrible mistake for the riverfront Old National Bank Building to have been significantly reduced in height. Evansville needs an even better skyline view, it needs to adopt Smart Growth principles, and it needs to be creative in its architecture. The front of Main Street on the riverfront needs minor redecoration with signs, banners, and flags. It needs to be something that Evansville will look at and be proud of. It also needs to be something that will grab the attention of tourists and retail customers. The entrance to South Street in Philadelphia comes to mind.

For the Main Street blocks between the Civic Center and the riverfront, I like the master plan's idea of turning it into a modern shopping plaza. However, I would like to see that area become not just a shopping center but an entertainment center as well. I have visited Louisville's Fourth Street Live and each time I go I ask myself, could it work in Evansville? I believe it can. I think Main Street should be a combination of Indianapolis' Circle Centre Mall and Louisville's Fourth Street Live. It should have an indoor mall portion that is connected to other buildings by a skybridge similar to Circle Center, but it should also have outdoor retail, restaurants, and live entertainment similar to Fourth Street Live.

The next segment of Main Street, which is from the Civic Center to the Lloyd Expressway, is currently in need of the most attention. In the past few weeks, Woody's at the corner of Main and John streets burnt down and the EVSC has announced they will be moving out of their Civic Centre building. In the master plan, a government services park that would serve as the gateway to downtown from the Lloyd Expressway to the Civic Center was proposed. Now is the time to take advantage of organizations moving out of this pathway in order to ensure that the transition to constructing the park is as painless as possible. I am also in favor of splitting the Civic Center in half and reconnecting all of Main Street. What I am NOT in favor of is the demolition of the Curtis Building. The Curtis Building is historic and is the only building in the government services park area that should remain intact.

The last segment of Main St. is the part that runs from the Lloyd Expressway all the way into Garvin Park. In an earlier post I have already outlined what I would like to see this area look like and what I think developers should do with it.

Overall, I think Main Street needs to implement a trolley/ cable car system that runs all the way up and down Main Street. Back in 2001, I was not in favor of opening up Main Street to traffic but I was in favor of reconnecting Main Street to the rest of the city. By adding trolley/cable cars and dividing up the Civic Center, Evansville will accomplish exactly this without compromising its uniquenesss like the traffic currently does. Lastly, the trolley/cable cars would pay for themselves and draw paying tourists and customers onto the street. It would also be able to connect to other cable car lines and PRT lines that would take people around downtown.


  1. Jordan,

    While I am not sure about the trolley car proposal, I like the 4th Street Live concept. I have been a proponent of splitting the Civic Center in half for quite some time and allowing access to Main St from several angles. I like your parks idea also. I will drive the Market St region and think about some road improvements also. Keep up the ideas....they're good all-in-all.

  2. Ronald,

    Thanks for commenting and welcome to my blog. I welcome all ideas, be sure to invite others as well!

    What I would like to replicate on Main Street is the trolley/cable system in Memphis. I don't know if you've ever been to Memphis ( ) but their system runs down the riverfront, past the Pyramid, and loops back down what I think is Union or Main St. It brings a lot of excitement and interest to that area and is an incredible success. With Evansville, the setting on Main and vicinity is that of one of the early 1900's up to WWII which is a perfect setting for trolley/ cable cars. The trolleys would also help put a lot of that "no parking" argument to bed as well.

    The civic center definitely needs to be divided. It just doesn't make sense to have a divided Main St. I really hope their serious about the park project as long as they keep the Curtis building as well.

    I believe that Market St. is very close to the part of the Wabash and Erie Canal that was actually in the Master Plan. Personally, I think they need to rebuild the entire Canal back and I think Market St. would thrive under that.

    Market St. would also thrive under a high speed rail hub with a Circle Centre-like mall on top of it on the Old Greyhound bus site and surrounding lots.