The APA has announced the results of its 2009 Great Places in America awards. I was really pleased to see Main Street in Greenville, SC celebrated as a 2009 Great Street! Greenville’s Main Street was one of the reasons I chose to go to university in the city. Main Street is definitely a lively and attractive place, filled with bustling restaurants, heritage storefronts, shops, ice cream parlors, public art, benches, trees, and plazas.
Some of the highlights of Main Street are the new trolley bus, Falls Park and the Liberty Bridge, Greenville Drive baseball, and the street itself, which is often used for festivals like Artisphere and Fall for Greenville. Did I mention all the shops, restaurants, and ice cream joints?
Another unique aspect of Main Street an area filled with working art studios along Falls Park, named Art Crossing. The fine arts and sculpture studios, which look onto a beautiful river park, are interspersed with restaurants and have a mix of condos and hotel amenities above. From the art studios, you can walk along the park to the Liberty Bridge, which overlooks a spectacular waterfall.
Greenville is doing something right. In Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs calls for streets that demarcate public and private space, are lined with mixed uses, and that have people on the street throughout the day. She believes this is important so that people use the sidewalks for different purposes at different times of the day, regulating public behavior and keeping the area safe. The more that people use sidewalks, the more people are attracted to walk on the street. Greenville achieve this by putting homes, hotels, offices, shops, galleries, bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and banks along Main Street. The street is comfortable to walk along, because there are benches, shading trees, and large crosswalks. Street parking, short blocks, and plenty of crosswalks help slow traffic down along Main, too. No matter the time of day, the street feels safe.
If you’re interested in reading more about what makes a great street or a great place, you may enjoy J. Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities, A. Jacobs’ Great Streets, and E. White’s Path-Portal-Place.
On a related note, here’s a cool video about a Peruvian city, Arequipa, that closed off a once-pedestrian main street to cars.