San Francisco, California
Thirty blocks bounded by Green Street to the north; Columbus Avenue and Kearny Street to the east; Bush Street to the south; and Powell Street to the west.
San Francisco's 1906 earthquake and fire, which destroyed Chinatown, gave rise to the colorful and ornate architectural style that distinguishes this neighborhood. With city leaders intent on relocating Chinatown, residents quickly rebuilt in place using a Sino – architectural vernacular, strategically designed to appeal to tourists, that shapes Chinatown's present-day skyline.
That skyline escaped physical damage from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but the resulting demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway in 1991 led to a seven percent drop in sales tax (1998-2007). Business and community groups rallied, creating events and promotions. Most recently, from 2006-2012, the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development reports a 21 percent increase in sales tax.
The neighborhood dates to 1846, when an American flag was raised in Portsmouth Square, one of several popular community open spaces. An influx of Chinese in the 1850s, due in part to the Gold Rush and railroad jobs, gave rise to a 12-block area that by 1880 would be home to 22,000. Today, 14,500 people, 75 percent of them foreign born, call Chinatown home. An equal number travel into Chinatown each day for community services, shopping, and socializing. Many come by bus, which will be augmented by train service when a subway station opens in 2019.
Chinatown grew organically through the late 1960s when the International Hotel, home to low-income Chinese and Filipino immigrants, was targeted for demolition as part of urban renewal. In January 1977, the courts upheld the eviction of residents and some 5,000 people protested, laying the groundwork for heightened community involvement in neighborhood development, especially affordable housing. In 2005, a new 105-apartment complex for low-income and senior residents opened on the site.
The neighborhood has a long standing history of affordable housing units, much of it the result of public and private efforts. The Ping Yuen Public Housing development was built in 1952, and the Mei Lun Yuen housing project opened in 1982. Roughly 40 percent of housing is single-room occupancy, which contributes to the neighborhood's sustainable character, as does the low level of household car ownership — less than 20 percent.
The high level of pedestrian activity has been an important part of the neighborhood's alleyway and streetscape improvement plans created since the mid–1970s, when development in the nearby Financial District threatened Chinatown. The Chinatown Community Benevolent Association created and published in Chinese "A Plan for Chinatown," while the Chinatown Community Development Corporation Center and Chinese Chamber of Commerce collaborated on the "Chinatown Community Plan." Both would influence the city's 1986 Chinatown Rezoning Plan, which downzoned large portions of the neighborhood to protect the single-room occupancy housing stock and create incentive zoning with height bonuses for affordable housing. Community participation continues today and is evident in the design guidelines created to accompany development of the new subway station in this compact, tight-knit community.
Complete and Sustainable
- Most densely populated neighborhood west of New York City, with 115 people per acre; more than four times higher than the density of San Francisco as a whole
- Boasts schools, shops, restaurants, hospitals, squares and playgrounds, community centers, social services, and religious and cultural institutions
- Compact grid and alleyway network favor pedestrians: more than 80 percent of households do not own a car
- Muni 30 bus averages 22,000 daily passengers at four Chinatown stops; subway station to open in 2019; three Chinatown streets included in citywide bicycle network
- Housing stock is 40 percent single-room occupancy, reducing residents' carbon footprint; some 2,200 housing units are affordable
- Chinatown Alleyways Master Plan passed by Planning Commission in 1998, building upon four years of community-led efforts. To date, 11 alleyways have been renovated to be more green and pedestrian oriented
- Chinatown Green Alley, a public-private demonstration project, will add green infrastructure technologies in up to three of neighborhood's 41 alleys by 2016
- Concentration of social services and health care access create a complete and livable neighborhood
- Chinese Hospital is a critical cornerstone of the Chinatown neighborhood and a proud community accomplishment providing services since 1925; new replacement hospital is under way
- Significant public investment has occurred over the past five years to a number of civic institutions including Chinatown YMCA, Chinese Recreation Center and the Chinatown North Beach campus of City College of San Francisco
- Largest Chinese community outside Asia, with 14,500 residents.
- Gateway for new immigrants, providing familiar language, goods and services; 75 percent of residents are foreign born
- Home to annual Chinese New Year Parade and Street Fair and the Autumn Moon Festival; dining, shopping, and entertainment options attract more than 10 million visitors
- "Oriental" architecture — employed as a land-use tactic to prevent Chinatown's relocation after 1906 earthquake and fire — distinguishes neighborhood
- Public art, which includes 19 murals, often speaks to Chinese-American history and culture
- Growth was organic through 1960s urban renewal claimed some landmarks, such as Kong Chow Temple on the border between Chinatown and the city's Financial District. From mid-1970s to mid-1980s some 1,700 housing units were converted to office space
- Chinatown Rezoning Plan (1986) downzones neighborhood, preventing high-rise commercial and residential encroachment from Financial District
- Chinatown Area Plan (1995) sought to preserve distinct urban character and stabilize and increase housing supply.
- Guidelines to transform alleyways into pedestrian/community spaces included in innovative Chinatown Alleyway Master Plan (1998).
- Alleyway network not only provides passage through neighborhood but is home to apartments, ethnic grocery stores, and unique businesses, including the 1962 Golden Gate Cookie Factory, the only fortune cookie manufacturer in the city that still makes cookies by hand.
- The Chinatown Broadway Street Design project was planning effort to develop a community-based vision and design plan to improve pedestrian conditions along Broadway from Columbus Avenue to the Broadway Tunnel. Funds for implementation have been secured (2013).
- Founded in 1882, Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA), aka Chinese Six Companies, provided community services — including security, health and translation — and advocated on immigration and persecution matters.
- Today, CCBA is active in community development — creating the "A Plan for Chinatown" (mid-1980s), published in Chinese — and managing Chinese Hospital.
- Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) was founded in April 1977 following protests over closing of International Hotel, which provided low-cost housing to Asian immigrants.
- The group has been instrumental in creation of some 2,200 affordable housing units.
- CCDC has created numerous plans, including "A Station for Chinatown" (2008), community design guidelines for the new Central Subway Chinatown Station.
- Cameron House and Self-Help for the Elderly are among a dozen groups providing social and educational services to a population where 30 percent of residents are over age 65.
The unique sense of place found within this ethnic enclave comes not only from the architecture and compact street grid but a cultural identity that has persevered for more than 160 years. Despite its reputation as a tourist attraction — it is San Francisco's third most-popular visitor destination — Chinatown is an immigrant gateway and cultural capital, a touchstone for Chinese throughout America as well as the 150,000–plus San Franciscans of Chinese heritage.
Downtown Norwich/Chelsea Landing
Bounded by the Yantic River to the west; Shetucket River to the east; Norwich Harbor to the south; and Oak Street, Willow Avenue, and School Street to the north.
With buildings of monumental character and dramatic views because of steep-slope terracing, downtown Norwich boasts streetscapes of unusual historic integrity and variety. Located at the confluence of the Shetucket, Yantic, and Thames rivers, this compact neighborhood exudes 19th century charm while offering 21st century amenities. The rivers, key to neighborhood's initial prosperity, are a recreational resource today. A $12 million world-class 200-slip marina replaced an abandoned coal distribution site. Adjacent to Norwich Harbor is the Howard T. Brown Park with boat launching site and pedestrian paths.
Shortly after Norwich's 1659 founding it became a bustling port, and water-dependent industries flourished. Downtown served as an early, New York–to–Boston transportation hub, but the city's geographic advantage evaporated when the interstate highway system passed it by. Intent on reestablishing itself as a regional transit center, downtown recently inaugurated a $22 million Intermodal Transportation Center that, ultimately, will connect bus, rail, and ferry.
The 1929 stock market crash signaled downtown Norwich's decline. Textile mills headed south. New construction slowed. By 1970, the neighborhood was a hub for the disenfranchised. Downtown turned to planning for guidance and possible solutions. The 1971 waterfront plan jump-started redevelopment, and 10 years later a historic resources inventory led to the 64-acre Downtown Norwich Historic District being added to the National Register of Historic Places.
A merchant-funded plan in 1982 resulted in the creation of a downtown development corporation that encouraged building facade improvements, renovations, and adaptive reuse. Streetscape improvements, including brick sidewalks and period streetlamps, were made in 1992. A $3.38 million plan, approved by voters in 2010, is funding code corrections, lease rebates, and low-rate loans.
Redevelopment is focused on increasing the number of moderate- and high-income residents to spur economic activity. The neighborhood has roughly 500 housing units, ranging from stately mansions to affordable apartments, such as The Wauregan, a renovated 1855 hotel. Housing for artists is available in a former shoe factory located in the heart of the neighborhood's vibrant arts district. The district has two live theaters, the Slater Memorial Museum and the 1850 Otis Library. With support from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the $18.9 million mixed-use Mercantile Exchange with 100,000 square feet of office space was built in 2004.
A host of events throughout the year reflect the neighborhood's cultural and ethnic diversity, including the Taste of Italy and the River Fest-Dragon Boat Racing that celebrates the most concentrated Asian community in the region.
Historic Architecture and Street Design
- Downtown's oldest home built 1737; a brewery is oldest commercial structure built 1741; 13 structures from 18th century, 55 buildings from 19th century, 30 buildings from 20th century
- 19th century architecture includes Italianate, French Second Empire, High Victorian Gothic, and Greek Revival styles; most prominent houses are John Fox Slater (1843) and Buckingham Memorial (1847)
- Downtown Norwich Historic District, added to National Register (1985), comprises 64 of 74 acres
- Clustering of buildings creates visual character; unique streetscape derives from combination of dense development — relieved by occasional open squares — with irregular road pattern
- Street design results in narrow, angular lots, necessitating development of triangular buildings with rounded apexes and buildings with distinct facades on the two streets on which they front
- Adaptive reuse dates to early 1800s; rise in commercial property values led to conversion of residential structures; 21st century adaptive reuse creates theaters, restaurants, apartments
Planning and Redevelopment
- 1971 waterfront plan envisions recreational use of rivers and adjacent shoreline
- Local developer, Ron D. Aliano, invests $12 million to transform coal distribution point into marina
- Downtown merchants raise $20,000 to fund "Downtown Norwich" redevelopment plan (1982)
- $230,000 streetscape project (1992) results in installation of brick sidewalks and period streetlamps
- Norwich Community Development Corporation administers funding for development of $18.9 million, 100,000-square-foot Mercantile Exchange (2004); first new downtown office building in 30 years
- $10.5 million upgrade of Otis Library completed 2006
- Wauregan Hotel (1855) reopens after $18 million restoration (2006); has 70 affordable housing units
- Voters pass $3.38 million proposal (2010) providing favorable financing to businesses and grants to owners of historic properties to renovate uninhabitable upper floors; $1 million encumbered to date
- Vibrant Communities Initiative (2012) seeks to guide historic resource redevelopment
- $70 million invested over 10 years; $8 million in pipeline includes two mixed-use waterfront projects
- Site of city's first public landing (1684), which attracted merchant ships from as far as West Indies
- Steamboats connect downtown to New York (1816), trains link neighborhood to Boston (1832); streetcars introduced 1880s and electrified in 1892
- Marina at American Wharf is $12 million public-private project (1989); $1 million upgrade 2012
- $22 million Intermodal Transportation Center with 162 parking spaces, taxi services, rail connections is operations base for Southeast Area Transit District (2012); will link to future maritime services
- The Harbor Management Commission is developing a kayak trail along the waterfront with will connect to the Uncas Leap Heritage Area
- The entire downtown area is very walkable place with numerous sidewalks
Scenic Resources, Arts and Entertainment
- Downtown overlooks picturesque Norwich Harbor; at confluence of Shetucket, Yantic, and Thames rivers; terraced downtown built on steep, lower slopes of Wawecus Hill
- Heritage Walk starts from Howard T. Brown Park ; follows Yantic River, ends at Uncas Leap gorge
- Spirit of Broadway Theater, an 80-seat, black-box theater, located in historic firehouse
- Norwich Arts Center features 600 square feet of exhibition space; ArtSpace provides artist housing
- Slater Memorial Museum, a Romanesque Revival house (1886) displays fine and decorative art
- Community's ethnic diversity celebrated with annual River Fest-Dragon Boat Racing, Taste of Italy
- "Rock the Docks" at Howard T. Brown Park and "Norwich First Fridays" attract residents, visitors
- The downtown neighborhood is surrounding by hills, many of them containing historic residential neighborhoods of their own (e.g., Jail Hill, Laurel Hill, Little Plain)
It was a grand vision put forth in a 1971 waterfront plan — and a $12-million dollar gamble by a local developer who had faith in the plan — that saved historic downtown Norwich. The neighborhood, some 350 years in the making, continues its progress with the guidance of synergistic planning efforts, community involvement, and tens of millions of dollars in public and private investments that have both preserved and enhanced the downtown's natural and man-made assets.
A 100-acre area within a 0.5 mile radius of Old Courthouse Square.
The completion of MARTA station renovations in 2007 marked a milestone in downtown's long-term redevelopment strategy. The station — which connects Decatur to Atlanta and lies beneath Old Courthouse Square, the neighborhood's living room — had been an aesthetic concern since it opened in 1979. During the past 25 years, the city secured more than $10 million to improve the station and enhance the surrounding streetscape. Today the station, which has some 4,500 daily passenger entries, blends seamlessly with other neighborhood buildings and includes a bus-to-rail transfer facility.
Development proposals, some calling for massive buildings around the then-new Decatur MARTA station, galvanized residents and eventually led to building height restrictions to preserve views of the Old Courthouse on the square and the downtown skyline. It is a respect for surroundings that continues to guide new development in the neighborhood. Rather than mandating a prescribed look, design guidelines focus on the traditional building line, cornice lines, and street-level activities that engage pedestrians in order to create the feel of an urban room.
The cornerstone for sustainable neighborhood redevelopment and MARTA station improvements was the 1982 Decatur Town Center Plan. More than a half dozen subsequent plans — streetscape, transportation, strategic — built upon this vision, ultimately returning downtown to the prominent role it played in the 1950s, before the rise of suburbanization. Finding ways to reconnect residents with the square was an early priority, one that successfully harnessed support for redevelopment efforts.
A 1995 streetscape plan put downtown on a road diet; lane widths were reduced and sidewalks widened. The pedestrian experience was further enhanced with more than 400 street trees, public art, and upgraded street furnishings. New public parking, located behind buildings, encouraged visitors to "park once" and then walk to where they need to go. The city added dedicated bicycle lanes throughout downtown and doubled the number of bike racks. Scooter parking and Zipcars were made available. A Go60Plus shuttle that transports older adults from nearby neighborhoods into downtown recently finished a pilot program.
Many older residents reside downtown. Sixty percent of those in multi-family buildings are empty nesters. Decatur continues to focus on residential development in the neighborhood, with an eye toward attracting younger residents and families. Downtown markets itself as a "mallternative" and "destination for foodies, fashionistas and fun-lovers." Downtown boasts more than 150 unique, locally owned service-oriented and retail businesses and restaurants, some critically acclaimed.
The Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Business Association partner with the city and residents to implement plans and create opportunities for physical, social, and economic growth. The Decatur Beach Party, Arts Festival, and Tour of Homes, as well as the Heritage Festival, Decatur Craft Beer Festival, and AJC Decatur Book Festival are supported by the city in partnership with local nonprofit groups.
- Decatur Town Center Plan (1982); result of a citizen-based advisory board; provides foundation for downtown redevelopment; encourages MARTA station renovation, smart growth, implementation
- Downtown Streetscape Master Plan (1995) results in wider sidewalks, public art, street trees, removal of unsightly MARTA elevator shaft and cover, new bus-to-rail transfer station on Church Street
- Decatur design standards (1999) set height limits to preserve view of downtown skyline; encourage development that relates to surrounding environment
- Community Transportation Plan (2007) includes health impact analysis, embraces complete streets
- Some 1,200 residents involved with Strategic Plan (2010); identifies need for better transitions between single-family and commercial properties, streamlined permit process, shared parking
- Decatur Downtown Development Authority implements plans; works with Downtown Business Association to promote downtown
Variety of Uses, Connectivity
- Neighborhood is mixed-use: 50 percent commercial, 25 percent institutional, 25 percent residential
- Old Courthouse Square is the neighborhood's living room, hosting summer concerts, winter bonfire and marshmallow roasts, concerts, and a year-long calendar of festivals and events
- Boutique retail and acclaimed restaurants among 150-plus locally owned downtown businesses
- Multi-modal transportation hub connecting to Atlanta, six miles to the east, via MARTA
- MARTA station (1979), situated beneath Old Courthouse Square, links Decatur to Atlanta
- Bus-to-Rail transfer facility (1995) connects MARTA rail riders to bus and free shuttles
- Design guidelines (1999) avoid prescribed look that would result in artificial history; focus is on relationship of proposed development to surroundings
- Building height limitations of 80 feet imposed (1999) to preserve view of Old Courthouse Square, downtown skyline; variances occasionally granted in exchange for additional affordable housing units
- Centrally located parking encourages visitors to leave cars and walk; all new parking is located behind or beneath new buildings
- Wide sidewalks and street-level retail welcome pedestrians
- Compact, walkable neighborhood encourages bicycles and scooters; easy access to MARTA rail and bus as well as shuttle buses; Zipcar availability
- Dedicated bike lanes with ample bike and scooter parking
- Solar-powered compactor trash receptacles being installed
- Lighting and holiday decorations transitioning to LED lights
- Synthetic soil used in Old Courthouse Square to reduce compaction
Constantly changing and evolving, downtown Decatur's character comes from the successful marriage of historic and contemporary buildings and uses. The emergence of downtown as a dynamic and prosperous neighborhood spans more than three decades and is a story of planning, commitment, patience, and investment.
Central Street Neighborhood
The neighborhood is bounded by the Village of Wilmette to the north, Colfax Street to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, and Gross Point Road and Crawford Avenue to the west.
Located 18 miles north of Chicago, Central Street is home to Evanston Hospital, with 3,500 employees, and Northwestern University's athletic facilities. On fall weekends, the street turns purple as thousands of Wildcat fans flock to football games at Ryan Field. Despite its proximity to the university, Central Street is distinctive and unique. It is not just another campus town area.
Central Street is a waterfront community with numerous historic and recreational resources. Grosse Point Lighthouse, built in 1873 following several shipwrecks on Lake Michigan, rises into view toward the eastern end of Central Street. This National Historic Landmark — one of more than 100 local or national landmarks in the neighborhood — is undergoing a $350,000 renovation. The adjacent Lighthouse Beach is a popular summer destination for residents and visitors. Winter activities include outdoor skating at Ackerman Park and sledding at Lovelace Park. Perkins Woods, Cook County's smallest forest preserve, is a bird watching hotspot. And, Lawson Park features Noah's Playground for Everyone, a $400,000 accessible play space that opened in 2008.
Bicyclists and pedestrians — both visitors and those from the neighborhood's many single- and multi-family residences — find Central Street welcoming. A network of sidewalks, now being widened and improved based on recommendations in the 2007 Central Street Master Plan, is shaded by mature trees and lined with picturesque store fronts. The plan has resulted in the addition of traffic calming features — such as bump-outs at intersections, dedicated bike lanes, and bike parking.
Long served by public transportation, Central Street boasts both Metra commuter rail and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) rapid transit stations. Two CTA bus routes traverse Central Street, transporting shoppers, workers, and middle- and high-school students, eliminating the need for school buses. A suburban Pace bus route also passes through the neighborhood.
Noting the neighborhood's transportation assets, Evanston's 2000 comprehensive plan encourages transit-oriented development. The recently opened Central Station Apartments, a LEED Silver mixed-use project, features 80 residential units, 11,000 square feet of retail, and a car-sharing parking space.
Several earlier multi-story, mixed-use structures, built to the lot line and larger in scale than surrounding commercial buildings, raised concern among residents about the potential for overdevelopment and loss of the neighborhood's "European Village" charm. In 2005, the city responded by amending its zoning ordinance, reducing building heights and residential densities for mixed-use structures in certain districts. Instrumental to the success of neighborhood planning is the Central Street Neighbors Association, a resident advocacy group. The Central Street Business Association not only supports planning efforts but programs community and retail events.
History, Planning and Design
- Father Jacques Marquette, one of first two Europeans to traverse what is now Chicago, camped on and mapped Lake Michigan's Grosse Point (1673)
- Platted as the Village of North Evanston (1868); annexed by Evanston (1874); growth guided by city's numerous comprehensive plans (1916-2000). Completely built out; only redevelopment options remain
- Illinois Historic Structures Survey of Evanston (1972) identified historic buildings in neighborhood; 100-plus structures — cottages, mansions, school, municipal water plant, church, lighthouse, and gas station — designated as local or national landmarks
- Construction of mixed-use buildings to lot line raised concern about potential for over-development (2004); city amends zoning code (2005) to reduce building heights, lower residential densities
- Central Street Master Plan (2007) results in streetscape rehab, including improved sidewalks, added traffic-calming features, dedicated bicycle lane
- Adoption of two zoning ordinances (2008) lays foundation for use of form-based zoning in Central Street commercial area, allows a block-by-block approach that better accounts for existing conditions
Active and Engaged Citizenry
- Central Street Neighbors Association evolves as a result of Central Street Master Plan public participation process (2006)
- Central Street Business Association includes 50-plus retailers; programs and markets events, such as sidewalk sales, green market, holiday open house
- Nonprofit Evanston 4th of July Association plans Independence Day parade, activities, fireworks; event held annually since 1922, attracts 15,000 people to Central Street
- Lincolnwood Garden Club and the City of Evanston sponsor Central Street Garden Fair in Independence Park; proceeds from 64-year-old event benefit beautification projects throughout city
- Privately owned Curt's Café provides job and life-skills training to at-risk, young adults (ages 15-22); job placement assistance offered to those successfully completing food preparation and service training
Hometown and Destination
- Pedestrian- and transit-friendly with local businesses along 2.6 miles of Central Street
- Niche retail includes specialty foods, regionally renowned spice and cooking-oil shops; bakeries, delis
- Strong town-and-gown relationship; Northwestern University's Ryan Field and Welch-Ryan Arena attract 400,000-plus fans annually to football, basketball, volleyball games
- Employment center; Evanston Hospital (circa 1891) has 3,500 on staff, serves 435,000 patients yearly, ranks among nation's top 100 hospitals (Becker's Hospital Review and Truven Health Analytics)
- Transit hub; served by Metra and CTA rail and CTA and Pace buses
- Accessible to walkers and bicyclists; widened sidewalks, mature trees and picturesque storefronts welcome those on foot; dedicated bike lanes enhance travel for those on bicycles
- Year-round recreation — swimming, bird watching, ice skating, sledding — at neighborhood's beach, forest preserve, and parks, one of which houses a family-friendly accessible playground
- Cultural offerings include Grosse Point Lighthouse (circa 1873), a National Historic Landmark, and Mitchell Museum of the American Indian (circa 1977)
Combine an edgy urban vibe with a small-town pace and sensibility and the result is Evanston's Central Street neighborhood. A traditional neighborhood in many respects, Central Street also is a regional destination with an eclectic mix of homegrown businesses and eateries.
Downtown Mason City
Mason City, Iowa
The neighborhood is bounded by the blocks facing Washington Avenue to the west and northwest, the blocks facing Delaware Avenue to the east and northeast, and Willow Creek to the south.
Despite its heralded architecture, downtown Mason City is no museum exhibit or time capsule. A vibrant live-work-play neighborhood thanks to determined citizens and foresighted planning efforts, activities are informal and unscripted. People gather in Central Park, home to an 1884 Civil War monument; dine at a homegrown restaurant or cafe; grab a drink at an iconic tavern; or shop at locally owned boutiques, Fareway Grocery at the northern end, and retail outlets at the southern end. Easily traversed on foot, downtown is ideal for bicycling and as a site for events, many sponsored by Main Street Mason City.
There's no denying that downtown's pièce de résistance is Wright's Prairie School Historic Park Inn Hotel, which reopened in 2011 after decades of neglect. Although a grassroots effort resulted in the structure's listing on the National Register in 1972, the hotel closed in the 1980s. By 1999, it graced the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance's list of Most Endangered Properties. Residents, intent on rescuing the building, established the nonprofit Wright on the Park, Inc. in 2005 and bought the hotel from the city for $1. The subsequent $18 million restoration leveraged private donations and took advantage of historic tax credits to return the hotel to its original 1910 glory. Some 23,500 people toured or attended a meeting or stayed at the inn in 2012, funneling more than $5 million into the local economy.
The inn's restoration — along with a $3.6 million redesign of North Federal Avenue's streetscape and Federal Plaza that extends the Prairie School theme further into downtown — has catalyzed renewal efforts. Ten building facade improvements are expected to be complete by November 2013.
Urban renewal during the 1970s and '80s resulted in development of Federal Plaza, a public square that is a gateway to Southbridge Mall, which opened in 1985. While the mall's construction altered downtown's fabric — some architecturally significant commercial buildings were demolished — it retained retail anchors and the neighborhood's economic viability. Some 3.3 million shoppers visit the mall each year. Its design blends into the surrounding historic architecture and avoids compromising downtown's integrity.
Federal Avenue has always been downtown's main thoroughfare. It and Central Park were included in the 1857 Plat of Mason City. A recommendation in the city's 1940 comprehensive plan — to keep major civic functions within downtown — remains a guiding principle. Federal Avenue owes much of its charm to a 1965 downtown plan that moved U.S. Highway 65 to an outlying pair of one-way streets.
The neighborhood is part of the Mason City Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
- 1940 plan by Harland Bartholomew and Associates establishes downtown as civic center
- Barton-Aschman Associates' 1965 downtown plan proposed moving U.S. Highway 65 to one-way streets on neighborhood's perimeter to retain downtown's character; implemented during 1970s
- Grocery store at neighborhood's north end stems from 2002 Northbridge Redevelopment Plan
- $3.6 million Federal Plaza renovation and Federal Avenue enhancements resulted from 2007 Downtown Mason City Plan by RDG Planning and Design; given 2012 Urban Design Award by APA's Iowa Chapter
- Form-based zoning guides development and improvements, encouraging a mix of uses and specifying facade materials and treatments
- Prairie-School Historic Park Inn Hotel (1910), sole remaining Frank Lloyd Wright hotel; 1972 National Register listing kicks off grassroots restoration effort, with hotel reopening in 2011
- Major buildings include Classical Revival Parker Opera House (1883), Italianate City National Bank (1884), Classical Old Post Office (1907), Chicago-style City Center (1911), and Brick and Tile Building (1917)
- Part of Mason City Downtown Historic District listed on National Register (2005)
- 10 facades undergoing renovation; City of Mason City and Main Street Mason City administer public-private venture
- Tax increment financing used for major projects; tax credits offered for building renovations, energy-efficient upgrades, creation of upper-story dwelling units
- Although heavily commercial, neighborhood has several multi-family buildings, such as 1903 Kirk Modern Apartments, and upper-story dwellings
- Shopping options include grocery store and farmers market, locally owned boutiques, major retailers
- The Music Man Square is site of Meredith Willson's boyhood home and themed museum; River City Sculptures on Parade adds texture and interest to the downtown ; Central Park another place for respite
- Major employment center including U.S. post office; federal courthouse; city and county government offices; financial, insurance and publishing businesses; retail and restaurants
- Regional destination; Historic Park Inn attracted 23,560 visitors in 2012; Southbridge Mall is frequented by 3.3 million shoppers annually
- Scale and massing of buildings and attractive, active streetscape encourage foot traffic
- Bicycling promoted through placement of bike racks and bicycle valet service at community events
- Central Park Comfort Station is transfer point for city's transit system
- Rerouting of U.S. Highway 65 off Federal Avenue enhances pedestrian access and safety
- City and Iowa Department of Transportation analyzing downtown traffic volumes; considering new patterns, including abandonment of one-way flows on pair of streets designated as U.S. Highway 65
Active and Engaged Citizenry
- Research, fundraising leads to incorporation of nonprofit Wright on the Park, Inc. (2005), which purchases historic Park Inn Hotel for $1 from city; group leverages grants, undertakes $18 million restoration
- Volunteer-driven Main Street Mason City (2004) promotes neighborhood; annual events include Friday Night Live concerts; Cheers and Beers, highlighting midwestern craft brewers; and the Great River City Festival, including a reenactment of the First National Bank robbery by the John Dillinger gang
- Mason City Youth Task Force raises funds for downtown bicycle racks
- The Blue Zones Initiative, which focuses on community-wide health and well-being, promotes walking and biking within the neighborhood and highlights downtown restaurants that provide healthy dining choices and locally grown foods
Home to the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright hotel and one of two remaining Wright-designed banks, the view from Federal Avenue and State Street is inspiring, reflecting the clean lines and character of Wright's vision and Mason City's late 19th- and early 20th-century Prairie School heritage.
Historic Licking Riverside
The neighborhood is bounded by the Ohio River to the north, Licking River to the east, Greenup Street to the west, and 8th Street to the south.
It is no accident that while much of the Greater Cincinnati area has given way to concrete walls, high rises, stadiums, and various restaurants and shops, the Historic Licking Riverside Neighborhood in Covington has remained largely untouched. With natural and manmade threats forever looming, a strong neighborhood organization sprouted and has remained ever vigilant. Not only have residents restored many of the houses in the district after some were divided into apartments and false facades were added in the mid-20th century, but they have remained united during the seemingly constant threat of redevelopment. Today tour buses are regularly spotted driving through the neighborhood showing off its textbook-quality architecture and shedding light on its history. All the while, residents are getting their hands dirty keeping their lawns and houses pristine.
The district's north and east boundaries are defined by the Ohio and Licking Rivers. Although the rivers afford picturesque views of the Roebling Suspension Bridge and Cincinnati skyline, they are not always kind. The Great Flood of 1937 was the most destructive, causing the river to rise 80 feet and flood 40 percent of Covington. Water was up to the telephone pole cross arms along Riverside Drive, according to one account.
Besides flooding, the biggest threat to the neighborhood has been commercialization. Some residents strategically bought property on different blocks throughout the neighborhood in an effort to prevent development. In 1967 and 1968, with the help of the Northern Kentucky Heritage League, residents kept the district a neighborhood by stopping a proposal for riverfront development and commercial buildings in part of the neighborhood. With the help of strong-minded residents, what was the first area to be settled in Covington is now the city's last remaining riverfront neighborhood.
- City of Covington founded 1815; first plat includes the neighborhood up to 4th Street, and first expansion of city includes rest of what is now the neighborhood
- Neighborhood along migration path for escaped slaves crossing the Ohio River into Ohio and freedom; some houses part of the Underground Railroad
- First house built in 1791; gained prominence in the 1850s when settled by tobacco merchants and riverboat captains; mostly developed by late 1800s
- Major floods in 1884, 1913, 1937, and 1997; in 1937 Covington was under 15 feet of water; Riverside Drive was swallowed up; in 1997 water came within 10 feet of homes on 2nd Street
- In 1967 and 1968 neighborhood is threatened with demolition; residents joined together to stop city-supported proposal that would destroy many residences
- River mansions built early to mid-1800s; modest brick townhouses built mid- to late 1800s
- Mix of mansions, rowhouses, bungalows, apartments, coach houses with garages
- Styles range from Federal and Greek Revival, flamboyant Italianate and French Second Empire structures and edgy High Victorian Gothic to early 20th century bungalow and Georgian Revival
- Recent redevelopment created more modern housing — a hospital was turned into condos, a school into senior housing, and many carriage houses into apartments or single family homes
- Grant House, once owned by the parents of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, and childhood home of Boy Scouts founder Daniel C. Beard, both in district
Planning, Citizen Engagement
- Residents save riverfront mansions from urban renewal in the late 1960s; spurred local and regional historic preservation efforts and protective legislation
- Two National Register Districts — the Riverside Drive Historic District (1971) and the Licking Riverside Historic District (1975) — make up the neighborhood
- With the strong support and leadership from citizens within the Historic Licking Riverside Neighborhood and other historic neighborhoods around the downtown area, the city establishes Historic Preservation Overlay Zoning for neighborhood (1988)
- Historic Licking Riverside Civic Association founded early 1970s; its neighborhood strategic plan (updated 2010) addresses pedestrian amenities, transportation, preservation, civic engagement
- Twelve separate planning documents address the neighborhood and adjacent area
Physical Elements and Amenities
- Two riverfront accesses provide stunning views of the rivers and Cincinnati; include benches, historic streetlights, and seven bronze statues of prominent figures in the area's history
- Adjacent to John A. Roebling suspension bridge (1867); Roebling also designed Brooklyn Bridge
- Anchored to the North by the George Rogers Clark Park; beautified in 1989 by the Northern Kentucky Heritage League, host of annual Duveneck Memorial Art Show for 44 years
- The Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center at neighborhood's the south end; adjacent to Randolph Park; includes Olympic-size swimming pool, sports fields
- Large, handicap-accessible sidewalks lined with tall overhanging trees and planters
- Roebling Point provides small entertainment and dining destination in neighborhood
- City bus routes connect neighborhood to downtown Covington and Cincinnati
The Licking Riverside Neighborhood's original river mansions demonstrate every major evolutionary style of American architecture from 1815 to 1920. The Thomas Carneal House, the first brick house in Covington, was built in 1815 complete with a tunnel leading to the Licking River. On the west boundary sits Roebling Point, Covington's original business district. Visitors to these shops and restaurants have said, "It's almost like you're in Paris."
The neighborhood boundaries are Kenwood Parkway to the north, Lake of the Isles to the south, Lake of the Isles and South Logan Avenue to the east, and Cedar Lake to the west.
Built as a streetcar suburb near the end of the 19th century, Kenwood's park-like setting is reinforced by a canopy of stately trees, three nearby lakes, a park encompassing a third of the neighborhood's 95 acres, sidewalks, and a curvilinear street pattern. The sloping terrain offers superb views of the surrounding water and downtown Minneapolis skyline roughly two miles to the northeast. Kenwood's elevation, well above the low, mosquito-infested marshes and wetlands that composed Lake of the Isles original shoreline, was key to the area's early settlement. Minimum house construction costs were $3,000, and some — like an 1892 Queen Anne at the corner of West 21st Street and Kenwood Parkway — cost five times that amount.
Kenwood Parkway, a central link in the city's boulevard system designed by H.W.S. Cleveland, was a popular route to the lakes from downtown. A bike path, distinct from the carriage paths, was added in 1895. It wasn't until 1957, however, that the parkway was paved and curbs and gutters installed. The parkway feeds into Lake of the Isles Parkway, which is part of the Grand Rounds, a National Scenic Byway and a 2009 American Planning Association Great Public Space.
Probably the most familiar house on Kenwood Parkway s is the old Victorian that was featured in the opening of the 1970s sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Like the house on the show, this one had been divided into apartments, which was not unusual in Kenwood during the 1960s and 1970s. Since then the house, like most others in the neighborhood, has been reconfigured as a single-family residence. Roughly 85 percent of Kenwood's 540 homes are owner occupied.
Next to Lake of the Isles, the neighborhood's single largest feature is the 33-acre Kenwood Park. Acquired in 1907 for $162,000, the park remains mostly in its natural state. Tennis courts were added in 1913 and upgraded with private funds in 2007. A playground, now being renovated, was installed across from Kenwood Elementary School in 1996. That same year, residents unsuccessfully fought the siting of antennas on the Kenwood Water Tower, a designated city landmark. That landmark status followed an unsuccessful 1979 attempt to convert the tower, unused since 1954, into condominiums.
The latest issues to draw neighborhood scrutiny involves expansion of Metro Transit's light rail system to include the Southwest Transitway connecting downtown Minneapolis with Eden Prairie. The corridor under consideration includes a light rail station next to Kenwood Park. The Kenwood Isles Area Association (KIAA) is working with city planners to mitigate potential impacts — light and noise pollution, vibration, increased vehicular traffic, reduction in parkland and trails, and limited pedestrian access to East Cedar Beach — and ensure that the station's design is compatible with the neighborhood's park-like setting. Construction is proposed to begin in 2015 with the line opening in 2018.
History, connectivity, amenities
- Developers donated land (1886) on condition parkway be incorporated into city's park system; landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland hired to create plan for Kenwood Parkway (1886)
- Resident Frank Peavey donated fountain (1891); city built separate bike path (1895); paved parkway, installed curbs and gutters (1957), and repaved parkway (1991)
- Privately owned streetcars serviced Kenwood (1890-1938)
- Dredging of Lake of the Isles (1889-1893) at cost of some $70,000 beautified "mosquito-infested, malaria-breeding swamplands," according to parks superintendent Theodore Wirth
- City acquired 33 acres at cost of $162,000 to create Kenwood Park (1907); spent $4,000 to haul 13,000 cubic yards of fill for low-lying lands (1912)
- Park includes tennis courts (1913, 1928), playground equipment (1996), ball field (2006)
- Kenwood Elementary School has attached recreation center; offers activities, events
- Commercial district includes cafe; book store; art studio, gallery and framer; pet clinic; tailor
Natural and Manmade Beauty
- Sloping terrain offers spectacular views of the surrounding lakes and downtown Minneapolis, roughly two miles northeast. Neighborhood nestled between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles
- Kenwood Park's gently sloping hilltops provide stunning views of Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun; park has city's largest bank of public tennis courts; also playground, ball field
- Spectacular, well-preserved architecture defines neighborhood; architectural styles include Victorian, Tudor, Queen Anne, Regency, Prairie School
- Notable neighborhood features include Peavey Fountain (1891), The Mary Tyler Moore Show house (Victorian, 1892), Kenwood Water Tower (Gothic Revival, 1910)
- One of first area neighborhoods to inoculate against Dutch elm disease
- Kenwood Isles Area Association actively involved in planning and design of $1.2 billion Southwest Light Rail Transit; focused on preservation of neighborhood character
- Kenwood Park remains mostly in its natural state due to neighborhood objections to a proposed promenade, basketball, and croquet courts (1907), and golf course (1925)
- Proposed addition of neighborhood center at Kenwood Elementary School engenders neighborhood debate; leads to lawsuit; ultimately built (1984) with support of KIAA
- Neighbors successfully oppose conversion of Kenwood Water Tower to condominiums (1979), but unsuccessfully oppose siting of antennas on the tower (1996), now a city landmark (1980)
Reminiscent of a sleepy rural hamlet but with decidedly more urbane architecture and scenic vistas, Kenwood Addition is both engaging and engaged. Its residents have a deep appreciation of their neighborhood's history and assets and just as strong a desire to honor and protect them.
Beaufort Historic District
Beaufort, South Carolina
Neighborhood is bounded by the Beaufort River to the south and east, Bladen and Hamar Streets to the west, and Boundary Street to the north.
The neighborhood's layout and the size, mass and scale of buildings make it intrinsically green. Small, walkable blocks and a consistent lot orientation maximize cooling in summer from prevailing winds and heating in winter from a southerly sun exposure. Natural building techniques — porticoes, high ceilings and raised foundations — allow for year-round comfort. The neighborhood's centuries-long tradition of adaptive reuse utilizes existing infrastructure.
Bridges, streetscapes, and building style are defining elements among the Historic District's five distinct neighborhoods. The range of architecture — Federal, Georgian, Italianate, and Queen Anne — results from the city's history and settlement patterns. There are large stately mansions built as summer homes by wealthy planters looking to escape pestilent mosquitoes, small working-class cottages that were home to many African Americans, and grand civic institutions. Bridges and streetscapes are defining elements. Residential streets boast verdant tree canopies — often Live Oaks draped in Spanish moss — while commercial thoroughfares feature awnings and strategically placed trees.
The district's beauty and rich history give rise to a sense of community and an affability that goes beyond traditional Southern hospitality. There is a resilience and deep sense of pride among all residents that has allowed this neighborhood to overcome adversity and thrive.
A key player in the Secessionist movement — those advocating Southern independence — met in the 1810 Maxcy–Rhett house. Beaufort, ironically, benefited from its long occupation by Union troops. The commandeering of residences for hospitals and officers' quarters spared it from the fiery fate of other Confederate cities. Mother Nature wasn't as generous. Devastated by an 1893 hurricane and 1907 fire, Beaufort saw its population drop 40 percent from 1900-1910.
Residents eventually rallied. A 1945 effort to save the Verdier House, circa 1804, led to creation of the Historic Beaufort Foundation. In 1968, Beaufort recognized the neighborhood as a local historic district. National Landmark Historic District status was achieved in 1973 after the city adopted a district-specific zoning ordinance and established a Historic District Review Board.
The $5.3 million Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, the result of a 1975 plan, served as a springboard for revitalization, bringing residents and visitors to the neighborhood for events such as the Water Festival, Gullah Festival, and Taste of Beaufort. More recently, a 2001 park master plan resulted in a $6.8 million renovation. Other plans address the district's traditional African American settlement, the Northwest Quadrant, and include redevelopment of the mixed-use corridor on Bladen Street.
- Initial plan (1711) used grid layout with small, 300-feet by 300-feet blocks; district is 304 acres with two miles-plus of waterfront property (128 blocks) on Port Royal Island
- Feiss-Wright Survey of Historic District (1970) led to creation of architectural review board
- Historic preservation plans (1989, 2008) address threats to Historic Landmark status
- Waterfront Park Plan (1975) lays foundation for $5.3 million riverfront park with marina; plan update (2001) resulted in $6.8 million in renovations
- Survey of Northwest Quadrant (2009) focused attention on restoration of blighted properties
- Bladen Street Redevelopment overlay code (2010) resulted in sustainable improvements
- Civic Master Plan (2013) — to be implemented through new form-based zoning, calibrated to character of each neighborhood — provides for more compatible development in historic district
Natural and Manmade Beauty
- Scenic vistas are protected; streets terminating at river have unimpeded views
- Parkland preserves natural settings; The Bluff, a 15-foot natural bluff, meets a river marsh; The Green features open space dotted by moss-covered Live Oaks that characterize region
- Impressive antebellum architecture includes Federal, Italianate, Greek, and Gothic Revival
- Colonial-era structures destroyed by hurricane (1893), fire (1907); oldest house dates to 1717; St. Helena's Episcopal Church (est. 1712; built 1724) one of oldest active in North America
- Civic institutions include brick-and-tabby Arsenal (1795), Greek Revival Beaufort College Building (1852), District Courthouse (1883), Carnegie Library and U.S. Post Office (both 1917)
- Attractive streetscapes differentiate residential from commercial; tree canopies define residential roads; awnings and strategically placed trees hallmarks of commercial streets
- Woods Memorial Bridge (1959), now eligible for listing on National Register, is a metal truss structure and one of last remaining swing bridges in state; visible from Waterfront Park
- Committee to Save the Lafayette Building (aka Verdier House), formed in 1945 to preserve 141-year-old structure; evolved into Historic Beaufort Foundation (1965)
- Officially recognized as local historic district (1968); added to National Register of Historic Places (1969); designated a National Landmark Historic District (1973)
- City adopted historic district zoning, established Historic District Review Board (1970); published preservation manual (aka Milner Guidelines) (1979, 1990)
- Main Street Beaufort (1985) helps preserve district's history and culture, stimulate commerce
- Homes sited to use winds for summer cooling, southerly exposure for winter heating
- Porticoes, large shuttered windows, high ceilings help provide year-round comfort
- Centuries-old tradition of adaptive reuse — i.e. conversion of historic homes to inns, old city hall to market and cafe — uses existing infrastructure
- Streetscape programs make use of pervious pavers, other sustainable products and practices
- Commercial Street includes art galleries, bookstores, antique shops, restaurants, museums
- Waterfront Park hosts yearly Water Festival, Gullah Festival, Shrimp Festival, Taste of Beaufort
A sense of timelessness pervades the Beaufort Historic District, a neighborhood distinguished by stunning vistas and architecture spanning more than 250 years. That's not to say this quaint district is a throwback in time. Rather, it is a place that embraces its past, employing principles and precedents that are as relevant today as when the district was first planned in 1711.
West Freemason, bounded by the Elizabeth River to the west and south, is west of Boush Street and south of West Brambleton Avenue.
West Freemason's historic architecture, cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks, and cast and wrought iron fencing and railings create a 19th century feel. It's a contrast with the other side of Boush Street, the neighborhood's eastern boundary, where downtown shopping, dining, and entertainment options abound.
In the early 1900s, public transportation infrastructure throughout the city increased, and residents of West Freemason and neighboring areas moved further away from center city. The change led to years of neglect, disrepair, and demolitions in order to make way for parking lots and newer buildings.
The final act to threaten the neighborhood with extinction occurred during the 1960s when a freeway along the neighborhood's waterfront was proposed. Alarm amongst the remaining residents grew when they realized that if nothing was done their neighborhood would disappear. Working with the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, citizens initiated preservation efforts and fought the highway proposal. They succeeded in 1968, which led to a historic West Freemason conservation zoning district and formation in 1976 of the Freemason Street Area Association.
Since the 1980s, the city, in concert with the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, has invested $156 million to revitalize the neighborhood. Replacing West Freemason's original industrial waterfront and vacated properties are new townhouses, condominiums, businesses, and recreational areas that complement the neighborhood's historic buildings. The oriental gardens at the Pagoda and the Elizabeth River Trail, which runs along the Elizabeth River and the neighborhood's southern border, are just some of the public green spaces that have been created. The Tide Light Rail has a stop in the neighborhood, which connects West Freemason to Norfolk State University, Tidewater Community College, the Eastern Virginia Medical Center, and other stops.
- Named after Freemason Street, which derived its name from the location of the original Norfolk Masonic Lodge (just east of the neighborhood)
- In 1776, two-thirds of the city was destroyed during British Revolutionary War attacks; buildings that remained standing were later burned to the ground by patriots for strategic reasons
- Rebuilding of 70-acre neighborhood began just after the Revolutionary War and continued into the mid-1800s
- Starting in early 1900s, with more reliable and affordable public transportation options, residents moved further outside of the downtown area
- During both world wars, homes were turned into rooming and boarding houses for shipyard, military, and other defense-related workers
- By the 1950s, many of the largely blighted neighborhood's homes had fallen into disrepair
- West Freemason was first neighborhood to be rebuilt after the city was almost entirely leveled during the Revolutionary War
- Listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register in 1971; designated a National Historic District in 1972
- Oldest existing houses in the district were built in the 1790s — the Allmand Archer and Taylor Whittle houses; Selden House was built in 1807 and served as the headquarters for the Union occupation of Norfolk during the Civil War
- Architectural styles include Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Beaux-Arts Classicism, Queen Anne, Georgian Revival
- West Freemason Street retains the city's oldest surviving cobblestone paving, granite curbs, cast iron fences, brick sidewalks; all characteristic of early Norfolk
Planning and Community Engagement
- In 1956 a new master plan was drawn that included a new waterfront freeway that would bisect West Freemason; residents lobbied to prevent the district from being split
- In 1971 a new plan was adopted that would preserve the historic neighborhood and called for redevelopment of the waterfront's warehouses and industrial areas south of the historic district
- Established as a Norfolk Local Historic District in 1968; subject to the city's historic district zoning design guidelines, which include development standards and use limitations
- Freemason Street Area Association founded in 1976 by business owners and residents; involved in clean-ups, block parties, and Pagoda gardens today
- The Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority oversaw the transformation of the area into today's mix of townhouses, condominiums, businesses, and recreational spaces
- Neighborhood land values have increased five-fold since 1990; book value of residential and commercial development now $2.1 billion
Physical Attributes, Amenities
- Serviced by bus and one of the Tide Light Rail's 11 stops at York Street and Freemason near the north end of the neighborhood; part of Norfolk's 7.4-mile light rail system; completed in 2011
- Access to the waterfront promenade; Elizabeth River Ferry provides connection to the Old Town area of Portsmouth
- Elizabeth River Trail extends 9.5 miles along the Elizabeth River between downtown, Old Dominion University, and the Norfolk Naval Station
- The Marine Observation Tower (aka Pagoda); built in 1989; a gift from Taiwan honoring trading ties with Virginia; features oriental gardens; part of Friendship Park and Freemason Harbor
- The YMCA and Wisconsin Square — featuring memorial to seamen lost while serving on U.S. Navy ships homeported in Norfolk — are also within the neighborhood
- Adjacent to the Tidewater Community College's downtown campus (to the east) and the Eastern Virginia Medical Center campus (to the west)
- Hosts portions of the city's annual Harborfest; attracts thousands of visitors; in 37th year
Norfolk's West Freemason neighborhood was almost completely destroyed by the British during the Revolutionary War. Since then, the neighborhood has faced obstacles and trials, including one in the 1960s that would have once again leveled the area. Because it survived, West Freemason contains the majority of Norfolk's pre–Civil War structures.
The neighborhood is bordered by East Washington Avenue to the north; Blair Street to the west; Lake Monona to the south; and to the east by First Street, the Eastwood bypass, Division Street, Lakeland Avenue, and Lake Monona.
Today, Marquette attracts professionals, students, and bohemians to live or open a business. Visitors from around the region come to dine and shop. Marquette is located a short walk from Wisconsin's state capitol, Madison's downtown, and the University of Wisconsin's Madison campus. With its continuous sidewalks, bike paths, and lively commercial district, it is one of Madison's most thoroughly walkable neighborhoods.
Marquette's 19th century architecture showcases some of the last remaining buildings from Madison's early history, including a Carnegie–funded library. Originally opened in 1913, the building has been historically renovated and now houses office space. The neighborhood's housing options include Craftsman Bungalows and newly built or redeveloped condominiums and apartments — including a generous number of affordable units fostering economic diversity.
Marquette's intact neighborhood character has been preserved by the efforts of residents, who in 1968 formed the Marquette Neighborhood Association (MNA). Years of decline had left the neighborhood vulnerable to modern threats: commuter traffic, a proposed freeway, middle-class flight, closure of the elementary school, vacant factories, and up-zoning and demolitions.
To counter these threats, in 1971, MNA wrote and implemented Madison's first citizen-prepared neighborhood plan. The neighborhood was saved, and neighbors are still refining and realizing the goals of the 1971 plan.
In 2008, Madison completed the Yahara River Parkway, a goal of the MNA plan that was first envisioned by renowned planner John Nolen in Madison: A Model City (1911). The Parkway, a linear park connecting the two lakes, helped transform brownfields into a riverfront with bike paths, open space, and connection to an 8.7-acre central city park currently under construction.
During the 45 years since Marquette's turnaround began, locally owned shops, restaurants, and live music venues have occupied previously vacant spaces on Williamson Street. Startup incubators now occupy former factories, and a home-grown entrepreneurial energy prevails. Placemaking efforts, from neighborhood fairs, to music festivals, to Little Free Libraries, express the spirit of an engaged community.
With renewal have come new challenges: pressure to redevelop, gentrify, and accommodate national chains. Residents remain vigilant, however, and are determined to protect Marquette's traditional character and diverse population.
- Madison's City Charter 1856; approximately half of Marquette included in Madison's original plat (1836)
- In 1911 John Nolen — hired by the city in 1908 — proposed a comprehensive city park system; in Marquette he recommended connecting lakes Mendota and Monona with a park along the Yahara River
- A Carnegie Library built on Williamson Street (1913); library moved to Atwood Avenue (1958)
- Nolen's ideas for Madison began to be implemented in the 1920s
- Madison streetcars traveled along Williamson Street until the 1920s
- Walkability of Williamson Street was compromised during 1950s when street was widened to accommodate automobile traffic. Street trees were removed
- When manufacturing industry and rail service ended, also in 1950s, neighborhood underwent a long period of decline; storefront vacancies and crime increased. Williamson Street was viewed as the "seedy" part of town.
- A period of neighborhood renewal and recovery began during 1970s
- Nolen's vision of a Yahara River Parkway finally realized in 2008.
- Founded in 1857; styles include Greek Revival, Italianate, Arts & Crafts Bungalows
- Four national historic districts: East Wilson Street Historic District (1986), Jenifer-Spaight Historic District (2004); Marquette Bungalows Historic District (1997); Orton Park Historic District (1988)
- Two local historic districts: Third Lake Ridge (1979) and Marquette Bungalows (1993)
Planning & Community Engagement
- Marquette Neighborhood Association (MNA) formed 1968 to preserve Marquette Elementary; association has been a long-term force behind citizen activism
- In 1971 MNA wrote city's first citizen-prepared neighborhood plan
- Common Wealth Development, Inc., formed 1979; programs include business incubators; development and management of 111 affordable housing units; youth programs
- The Greater Williamson Area Business Association provides range of business services
- Marquette Neighborhood Association annual events include Chili Dinner, Waterfront Festival, La Fete de Marquette, Orton Park Festival, Willy Street Fair
- Friends of Historic Third Lake Ridge seek to promote, popularize, and defend the historic character of the neighborhood through education, events, and activism
- Neighborhood's two historic districts subject to design guidelines to protect architecture
- Local newspaper, Wil-Mar Gazette, published bi-monthly
Physical Attributes & Amenities
- The Willy Street Grocery Cooperative (1974) helps keep Williamson Street vibrant
- Served by several bus and bike routes that connect the neighborhood to the city
- Marquette Elementary School and O'Keeffe Middle School located in neighborhood
- Iconic Machinery Row now a professional building (Williamson, Blair and Lake Monona)
- Points of interest within the neighborhood include Lake Monona, Orton Park, Yahara River (Yahara Place Park, Parkway, bridges, and bike path), BB Clarke Beach, and Morrison Park
- Additional greenspace within a few blocks walk include Tenney and James Madison parks
- 8.7-acre Central Park, just now under development, reclaims underused industrial lands
- Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center (1969); uses former church; site of Eastside Farmer's Market
Located on Madison's Isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, Williamson Marquette is one of Madison's oldest neighborhoods. From its earliest beginnings in the late 1850s, Marquette, as it commonly is known, has embraced diversity. Grand Victorian homes were built along the lakefront, and single family Queen Annes and two flats filled the adjacent grid. Along Williamson, the neighborhood main street, modest workers' cottages were sandwiched between shops, taverns, implement dealers, and blacksmiths.