Like many communities, Hamburg, New York needed to resurrect its downtown.
One suggestion was to add a traffic lane to Main Street.
Nothing doing, said a number of Hamburgers.
Instead, a committee designed an alternative. They added 4 roundabouts — a deliberate attempt to slow traffic. They planted trees on sidewalks, and increased on-street parking. And they built “safety lanes,” where drivers could open doors without banging the new bike riders who also used them.
Crosswalks were built mid-block. Sidewalks were extended into the road.
“If you build a place for cars, it will be a gathering place for cars,” a village trustee (and ladies boutique owner) told The New York Times. “If it’s built for people, it will be a gathering place for people.”
Also important: inviting facades. Most storefronts now have large windows — “once a mainstay of Main Streets,” the Times says. Hamburg’s architectural design guidelines encourage 2-story buildings, “with stores at street level and housing above.”
At the same time, Hamburg focused on “doing small things for small businesses,” the town’s special-projects coordinator said. There are few national chain stores in town.
In five years, building permits rose fivefold. Property values more than doubled.
And there’s been a “burst of civic activity, including a movie-in-the-park night, a village-garden walk, a street-music festival, a progressive dinner called Hamburg Bites, and a soapbox derby.”
Westport is not Hamburg. We’re an affluent New York suburb. Hamburg is — in the New York Times‘ words — a Buffalo-area “Rust Belt village of 10,000 people (needing to) resurrect itself from a 30-year slide.”
Still, like Hamburg, Westport has a Main Street.
Like Hamburg, we’ve spent time talking about the past, present and future of that Main Street.
Pretty soon, we’ll come to a fork in our planning road.
It won’t hurt to have as many road maps to follow as we can.