City council chooses curving boardwalk design

Published on Thu, Oct 10, 2002 by Jack Kintner

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City council chooses curving boardwalk design

By Jack Kintner

Architect Dave Christensen wanted some consensus on the city’s new boardwalk, so he used a 19th-Century idea born on the streets of Paris’ Left Bank to do it. And it worked. Last Monday and Tuesday nights he directed a meeting of Blaine city officials, city council members and downtown property owners through a “charette,” a wide-ranging and open-ended discussion that resulted in almost unanimous endorsement of one of two design concepts he prepared for the city’s new boardwalk.

“It’s an exciting concept, and the interesting thing is how in one rendering, when looking up at the boardwalk from the harbor, it really looks like old Blaine with all the old trestles and bridges,” said city manager Gary Tomsic.

The charette process is named after a cart used by Parisian architecture students as they rushed their assignments through the streets to waiting professors for grading. Lately it has come to mean a structured discussion process in which design ideas can be gathered, discussed and agreed upon from a diverse group, quickly drawn up as alternatives by an architect and then voted on by the group in a subsequent meeting.

“Having time to sleep on it is important, after all this talk,” said Christensen toward the end of the first meeting. Participants were relaxed and engaged, enthusiastically considering alternatives based on such considerations as the kinds of activities

people would hope to find there, and whether or not the wooden structure should run along the back side of buildings on the west side of Peace Portal Drive. The alternative, suggested by planning commission chair Brad O’Neill, would be to keep the structure away from the buildings to allow them room to expand.

“Christensen’s method got us to quickly focus,” said city manager Gary Tomsic, “so everybody has a clear vision of what the thing will and will not be, and we agree on that.”

An old proposal to provide a pedestrian overpass that would cross the railroad tracks was considered for a while, favored by some who want to see a loop trail developed downtown as soon as possible, but ultimately was shelved for the present to focus on the boardwalk itself.

Tuesday night the group gathered to look at ideas Christensen developed and rendered during the day on Tuesday. He brought two designs, and after some discussion nearly everyone chose a design in which a curving boardwalk, separated from existing buildings on the west side by several feet, connects two large boardwalk areas at the street-end parklets at the end of H and G streets. A fountain will be installed at the end of H Street, and a covered gathering area will be at what is now Lester Park. Current features at these two spots, such as Lester Park’s cannon, will be integrated into this design or alternative places will be found for them, Tomsic said..

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