Congress Street used to be the Main Street of Tucson, with a remarkable variety of large and small shops, theaters, music, and Tucson’s first skyscraper. With a decline that began in the mid 1960’s, Congress lost many of the traditional retail establishments that created its character. As the uses that once drew people to the area disappeared, vehicular traffic was gradually taking priority over pedestrian comfort, and the area was no longer connected to other downtown destinations.
Project for Public Spaces was part of a team hired by the City of Tucson to create a master plan and revitalization strategy for Congress Street. The team was led by local landscape architecture firm Wheat Scharf Associates and also included Transcore, DOTA Architects, and Benya Lighting Design.
PPS brought together all parties that had an interest in Congress Street to identify problems, share plans, create a vision, and go forward collaboratively to achieve that vision. As a part of the visioning process PPS conducted on-site observations of existing conditions and traffic patterns, interviewed local merchants and owners, and held Placemaking workshops with the community.
A series of recommendations were developed by PPS to revitalize Congress Street and remake the neighborhood as a destination, rather than just an area you drive through. PPS recommended several measures to restore pedestrian comfort and access, upgrade the physical quality and safety of the roadways and sidewalks, improve traffic circulation, create different destinations that would draw various users at different times of the day, and connect the street to other nearby destinations to create a larger downtown district.
Some recommendations for short term improvements have begun to be implemented, including a farmers market at bus transfer station on Congress Street. The longer term revitalization plan is going into final design and construction is expected to begin in 2007.
Transit is a component, but by no means the extent, of your experience at a station that is a place. Memorable and enjoyable stations and stops that create value for neighborhoods are perfectly attainable. In fact, a transit station or stop can serve much more than a transportation function; it can be a setting for community interaction, a place that fosters a diversity of activities.