Maple Street is one of the primary gateways into the downtown from the south. It extends from an area of magnificent XIX Century homes through a few blocks of Victorian townhouses, early XX century apartment buildings and post-war office buildings. It was widened decades and decades ago in order to make more space for (what else?) automobiles.
*In an age where communities all over the country are trying to recreate the mixed use neighborhoods of yesteryear, Maple Street combines single family and multifamily residential, commercial, retail, and institutional properties.
*Some of the city’s oldest and most beautiful structures are located along this magnificent mile.
*The consistency with which builders respected the “build to” line creates an exceptional “outdoor room” experience along much of the street.
*The street runs parallel to one of the most vital stretches of Main Street and connects to State Street in such a way that it creates two of the city’s liveliest intersections in the downtown.
*The sidewalks are too narrow for pedestrians to walk safely, or for more than two people to walk side by side, or for even the smallest groups of pedestrians to pass one another without feeling “pushed” into the all to close automobile zone.
*The car centered design of the lower 2/3rds of the street encourages cars to travel much too fast…but only intermittently. Leaving the downtown (Nominally “Dwight Street ” from the corner of State Street up to East Park Street) drivers are cued to drive from 55-65mph with three interstate-like super-wide lanes, a separate “breakdown lane”, and only one lone surviving street tree. There is even a median strip to make the interstate illusion seem all too real. Of course, there are also four traffic lights AND a stop sign waiting along the remainder of this one mile stretch, so drivers go extremely fast for a time…only to stop and wait for minutes at a time.
Update! For at least the third time in as many years a car has crashed into the building on the corner of Maple Street and East Park Street.
*The street lights, traffic lights, sidewalks, bus stops and the other public amenities on the street are not only from the horrible 1950’s and 1960’s, but are universally in a terrible state of disrepair.
*What is potentially the MOST beautiful stretch of the street, the townhouses located at the corner of Central Street, are in such a horrific state of disrepair that it acts as a physical and psychological barrier between the upper and lower sections of the street AND detracts enormously from the otherwise spectacular streetscape.
*The previously mentioned “Dwight Street” section (south of State Street) is completely devoid of pedestrian interest and runs for hundreds of yards with nothing but a barren, ill maintained embankment.
*The “grid” has been altered, specifically at Park Street/East Park Street and there is no pedestrian flow through from East Park Street to the east side of Maple Street.
What to do?
*Improve traffic flow through so that cars can travel at slower maximum speeds without negatively impacting overall travel time.
*Widen sidewalks and add on street parking (Especially on the “Dwight south of State” section)where possible to create more space for pedestrians and give a greater feeling of protection from traffic. Where traffic engineering concerns will not allow for either, bollards should be installed to more sharply define the pedestrian zone. (Complete “shared space” would be an awesome alternative as well, but that would require a commitment to walkability which goes beyond anything I’ve seen in the city to this point, though recent improvements to Main Street have been of the highest order and have greatly enhanced the pedestrian experience.)
*Upgrade lighting, traffic lights, and sidewalks in keeping with the historic nature of the neighborhood. Pedestrian oriented lighting could cue drivers that they are driving through a neighborhood, not racing down a highway.
*Create a crosswalk at the corner of East Park Street and Maple Street.
*Should demand for real estate ever rebound in the downtown, keep the “Dwight south of State” section in mind as a spectacular location for a wonderful, though slightly concave (to Maple Street)multi-purpose structure like Three Center Plaza in Boston.
*Trim these darn bushes!!
Update! The carnivorous bushes have been tamed!!