Exploring significant opportunities for Brooklyn's Montague Street, starting at Borough Hall Plaza and ending on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade
The current situation
Montague Street has a tired, old, not-cared-for feeling. There are multiple empty storefronts, uncared for buildings, limited to no seating, few places to gather, weak entranceways, few outdoor cafes, a limited restaurant experience. All this was greatly impacted by the pandemic which has exposed these flaws and given visitors and residents a reason to avoid using the street and thus lessening the vitality that foot traffic and social life bring to such an important street in one of the most important historic districts in all of New York...That history is not evident and could be an important part of the renewal.
Assets and Basic Ideas
There are tremendous assets. The variety of buildings is very evident. Each building has a story to tell and needs to be a big part of the future. Sprucing up and embelishing these buildings is important, plus bringing their insides out to be part of the sidewalk experience. This could create a very interesting and dynamic street that everyone would be proud of.
Double loading the sidewalks on some block faces could help a lot as well. Some areas of the street might be better with wider sidewalks, even without removing a lane of parking; on some blocks, the travel lane could be narrowed.
Intersections are key and corners could be extended. They represent an immediate and inexpensive improvement. One such corner could be the southwest one at Hicks/ Montague which could be quickly improved by moving the bike station.
Banks, schools, churches, and the casino are important anchors and each need to add to the street experience. Montague Street needs a strong anchor at Borough Hall. The link below describes how that could be possible:
The Power of 10 idea is where a street needs 10 distinct places along it to become specific "destinations" that collectively give it the identity it needs. Clearly the Borough Hall/ Cadman Plaza is one, along with the Brooklyn Promenade. Both are significant challenges and need to be the high points of the experience at each end. We show a few benchmarks below to help begin shaping some ideas.
But where are the 8 additional places needed to build a sense of a destination that carries enough stature to warrent that designation? The southwest corner of Hicks and Montague is one. Perhaps the fences along Saint Anne's and The Casino could be two more. An exercise we call the Place Game could be used to seek out ideas for each block, intersection and smaller places that could be highlights of interest as the street becomes the destination it needs to become.
Borough Hall/Court Street Intersection
Montague/Clinton West Corner Entrances from Subway to Brooklyn Heights
Montague/Henry Southeast Corner
Montague/Henry Southwest Corner and Block Face
Montague/Hicks Intersection Looking West
Southwest Corner Montague and Hicks
Immediate Actions - Move Bike Station to another Corner
Montague/Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Activating The Brooklyn Heights Promenade may seem like an impossible task. It might be, but it also represents an enormous opportunity to add some small features that give it a richness to make it even more special. A few small kiosks with some seating could make it a strong gathering place for the Brooklyn Heights Community. Stockholm's Kunstragarten has a narrow layer of cafes along the promenade to the waterfront. Art and special seating areas could also add to the experience.
Some general possibilities
Area Map or Historical Exhibition - food kiosks, seating and art
Benchmarks - Paris Neighborhood Market Streets
There are major market streets in Paris that act as anchors for entire neighborhoods. They allow traffic, but no one would think of driving on them. They are very engaging year around as much of the business is directly on the sidewalks. The buildings are open and engaging. They create "porches" not "walls" along the street. Walking along those streets is an experience that draws many people for shopping and exploration, for connecting with merchants and friends, chance encounters, or just to watch the scene. It is high entertainment and these streets perform as a major economic and social generators for the entire community.
Paris rue Mouffetard
Paris rue Montorgueil
Paris Plac Maubert
Benchmarks - improve corners - Buenos Aires, London and Paris
Narrow Kiosks and Shallow Cafes - Santa Monica and Stockholm
These are other posts that can be part of the discussion:
Who we are:
We set up the Placemaking Fund as the next part of a trajectory of the placemaking movement we started when we established and grew Project for Public Spaces into a global organization to create catalytic projects in cities around the world. The Fund is now focusing on three efforts - The Social Life Project, PlacemakingX (a global network of 16 local and regional efforts on every continent and major region) and Catalytic Projects done around the world that collectively add up to create transformative change that then become part of larger goal to support climate change and deliver healthy, sustainable, inclusive and equitable communities everywhere.
Kathy and I are neighbors who live in Cobble Hill with our two sons and their families who lead PlacemakingX. We all care deeply about the neighborhoods where we live. Our global travels and work has led us to over 60 countries and most major cities, working and exploring what is the best out there. This has allowed us to share what we have found which could be used as examples to help all of us think about how we might create a better future. COVID-19 has allowed us to stay home and has given us enough time to explore the wonderful communities where we all live.
Placemaking is a humbling experience. Below are some places we have worked on, often as a catalyst and sometimes leading a team.