Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Problem with Skybridges...

Streets of Reno #6
Originally uploaded by ellen.w
It seems that the sky bridge has become a contentious issue about the City Creek project. Many people seemed to think the sky bridge is wonderful just because Rocky is against it.

I could care less if Rocky loves the thing or hates, I personally think the sky bridge is a very bad idea.

Downtown Reno is the perfect example of what a sky bridge can do. The three main casinos in the are the Circus Circus, Silver Legacy and the El Dorado. All three of the hotels under common ownership are connected to each other via sky walks which you can see to the left of the photo.

The sky bridges are designed for one thing: to keep people in the casinos. On the street level you see a few people but for the most part the pedestrian action is non-existent. In the picture you are looking north toward the Circus Circus. Along the Silver Legacy there is a facade of old looking buildings that are all fake. There is not actually entrances or anything. Even during the day there is very little pedestrian action on the streets.

You can't blame the casinos for wanting to keep all the business to themselves but their actions have largely killed the the rest of the downtown area.

The City Creek sky bridge is also designed to keep people in the development which will choke off pedestrian traffic along Main Street and the surrounding areas.

Another example of what sky bridges do is Downtown Spokane. Spokane built an extensive network of sky bridges during and after Expo 74. What essentially happened was the people moved up. They stopped walking around along the surface streets and only shopped from the sky walks. The street level died as a result and you started getting the impression that Downtown Spokane was dead.

Eventually many of the stores started to close and be turned into offices and the downtown area became a 9 to 5 area. While not all of downtown's problems could be blamed on the sky walks, it was clear that they were a contributing factor to the decline of the area.

It has taken more than a decade for things to start changing in Spokane. There was other issues like a big mall issue but bring back the street life over the last few years has help the downtown area.

While there has been claims that the sky walk at City Creek will have access to the street level, the sky bridge is designed to keep people in the City Creek complex.

People need to not let emotion rule the decision over the sky bridge. Instead let good urban planning that is designed to enhance the entire downtown area, not two single blocks make the decision.

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