Thursday, December 06, 2007

Visibility Problems

As I was scurrying down Vine Street yesterday (scurrying because of the cold, not out of any sense of insecurity), I overheard a conversation between two women who were obviously visiting downtown. One asked the other, "Did you find the mall?" The reply: "It's not really a mall; there's just a Macy's." I assured the inquiring woman that there was, in fact, a mall (not "just" a Macy's), helped her locate it, and went back to my errand.

The episode brings up one of my biggest pet peeves about downtown: why is Tower Place Mall so invisibile? Frankly, if you don't know it's there, you could walk past it on Vine, Fourth, or Fifth many, many times without any awareness that you're walking past a mall.

If we're serious about downtown being a destination, then we need to start acting like downtown is someplace where people from outside Cincinnati want to be (rather than just hoping they'll drop in). Visit other (more booming) cities' downtown areas and you'll find strategically placed maps. Why don't we seem to have any of those? Even UC has figured out that permanently-affixed maps help people find their way around campus; why not the same for downtown? Or more signs (geared towards pedestrian traffic) with arrows towards major attractions (Fountain Square, Tower Place, CAC, the Underground Railroad Museum, and Music Hall, just to name a few)?

Downtown needs to be more than merely safe (which, by the way, it is): it also needs to be accessible and accommodating. Let's work on that.

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