July 29, 2014

Good Main Street Urban Design in Downtown Burbank

There are many great urban design elements in just this one little section of downtown Burbank.

Nice wide sidewalk, street trees, benches for sitting, narrowed street at a mid block crossing, pergola that calls out the paseo to the parking in the rear. (See the picture below.) The location of the office building on this frontage is unfortunate. Offices are no longer permitted on the ground floor along San Fernando Boulevard in downtown. The other corner of this building at the end of the block has a good restaurant with lots of patio dining so it's not a complete disaster. (Notice the ribbon of bricks. Typical of downtown redevelopment in the past, but Nate Hood of Strong Towns will be happy to know that I have observed workers systematically filling in grout and maintaining the investment rather than letting it decay.)

This paseo is one of a half dozen in downtown Burbank. It makes San Fernando easily accessible from the parking in the rear and it is also a perfect place for a mid block crossing. This paseo is also a great opportunity to inject some excitement and visual interest into downtown. 

Mid block crossing that narrows the street which slows vehicles and makes the crossing shorter and safer for pedestrians. The street trees are a simple row with a large canopy that makes this the favorite downtown block for many people.
The design elements in these photos are repeated throughout downtown Burbank and make it a highly trafficked shopping and entertainment destination in the eastern San Fernando Valley. Some cities have successful spaces like this, but they refuse to implement similar improvements in other parts of their cities. They seem to think it's just fine for the charming little downtown district, but the real money is made elsewhere. The reality is that shopping districts like this generally are more profitable per square foot than the larger big box properties many cities pursue. I'm not sure why more cities don't aggressively encourage the growth of their traditional downtowns.

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