Nominate your choice for the best WALKABLE Urban Street in Hampton Roads



Do you have a favorite street in Hampton Roads, to see and experience, especially during the holiday season? I contend that the best places are the streets we where we get out and walk, no drive-by street is eligible. The best streets are safe, scenic, friendly and likely to be frequented by others enjoying the same experience as us. The presence of other pedestrians gives dynamics to these favorite streets. This phenomenon is called “walkability” in the language of New Urbanism. It’s something we want our city planners to strive to preserve and design into future community places.

Christmas lights as seen from Portsmouth

View from the ferry

I nominate downtown Portsmouth for consideration as Best Walkable Urban Street. The trees along historical High Street are lighted for Christmas with many restaurants and other business are open late for the holiday season. On my annual Christmas stroll through Portsmouth I counted ten restaurants open along High Street and the side streets of Old Towne, many listed on the Portsmouth Independent Restaurant Association website.

pedestrians enter the Beer Garden

Portsmouth Courthouse Galleries at Christmas

The Courthouse Galleries’ Winter Wonderland, The Coleman Collection was open from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve until 9pm. A number of great restaurants in downtown Portsmouth recently participated in Restaurant Week featuring special menus and entrées that benefited the Portsmouth Museums Foundation. The recently reopened Children’s Museum of Virginia is brilliantly lighted at night.

High Street LightsCity of Lights from the Ferry

One of the best ways to experience a pedestrian excursion to downtown Portsmouth is by way of the Waterside ferry from Norfolk. It leaves on the ½ hour for $1.50 each way (seniors half price) to get a dazzling view of the harbor from both shores. I recommend dressing warmly to ride on the open deck on top for the best views of the office tower Christmas lights in Norfolk and the shore lights along both sides of the Elizabeth River.

Quoting from the website of CONGRESS FOR NEW URBANISM: Traditional Main Streets, with their vibrant mix of commerce and culture — where mom-and-pop shops line the sidewalks, cars and trucks slow down to share the road with pedestrians and bikes, and people congregate in great gathering spaces — are the most outward expression of the strength of communal ties. As the structure of our streets help pave the way in which our communities connect on a physical, social, and economic level, designing livable, walkable urban thoroughfares is one of the utmost priorities.

From this definition It is easy to see downtown Portsmouth as a contender for the Best Walkable Urban Street in Hampton Roads. I invite any and all comments from my readers, including other nominations. In any case enjoy your walks in 2012 and experience downtown Portsmouth when you get a chance.

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  • GREGORY M. FRECH

    Urban Underbelly is a blog that seeks to share the back stories of successes and struggles in achieving the visions of New Urbanism, especially in Hampton Roads, Virginia

    New Urbanism: is a city planning and architecture movement directed at the creation and restoration of vibrant neighborhood places: centralized, sustainable, walkable and socially diverse.
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