Tami’s Big Do over: What Do We Want Waco to Be?

(Tami Nutall Jefferson, a married mother and grandmother, is going back to school and she has invited us all along to enjoy the ride.  For more posts in this series, click here: Tami’s Big Do Over.  –  ALW)

By Tami Nutall Jefferson

NOW, we’re getting to the meat of it all…the fun of it all…the reason why I’m a new Aggie at 40-something years old. This semester I’m taking two required entry level planning classes. I was NOT excited about that because I wanted to take all the cool-titled elective planning and development courses. My one elective this semester is my modern architecture course – which, while I am finding my style influences, is turning out to be…decent. The really impactful courses are the other two.

Shout Out To The City

One of these courses inspired my first movie watch party this month featuring the movie Urbanized”. (Sidenote: I call it a party, because to me, everything should be a party.)  A dozen or so Wacoans gathered in the meeting room at the Central Library on Austin and watched the video together and talked about how the urban planning concepts in the movie might apply here in our home city. This is what it’s all about!

While my courses’ subject matter spans global urban areas, they strongly impact the way I view, engage, and apply my newfound knowledge and passion on a localized level. Each principle, design trend, or great idea of prioritizing people and spaces over cars and buildings, influences the answers to my daily questions of ‘What do we want Waco to be?” and “How does Waco grow from here?” But these are questions that I can’t think about or answer alone in my own bubble – and neither can our City planners and developers. These are questions best answered in conjunction with fellow Wacoans. Hence, the movie watch party.

I totally applaud the City of Waco for opening its doors, ears, plans, and roundtables so we can have these discussions with them while they’re formulating answers to these questions for Waco.  A great example was the recent come and go session (again at the Central library) where we wrestled with the question of “one way or two?” for some of our downtown streets. Additional applause goes out to organizations like Prosper Waco who build real-people-collaboration vehicles into the development of strong Waco neighborhoods.

Um, Urban Planning, What Is That??

Last night, a lady (who was trying to secure my business as her virtual assistant client) told me she had heard of urban planning, but didn’t know what it was. So, she looked it up real quick. I was impressed. Most people won’t do that on almost any subject – especially urban planning – and will be content to just not know. So, I decided, instead of giving you old-college-lady fodder this month, to give you a quick look inside my brain and my college studies to help answer your burning questions “What is urban planning? What does it have to do with me, the City of Waco and what I want Waco to be? Hopefully, you’ll be able to look at your neck of the City through a different lens and understand why your presence and voice is vital to you, your children, grandchildren, and neighborhood’s pasts and futures.

A Newbie’s Study of Downtown Waco’s Poppin’ Downtown Farmer’s Market District

Below is an excerpt of my first urban space study. The findings rely on my experience as a Wacoan and the photos and intentional observation of the space on the particular days herein. I do not claim to have approached this from the most technically correct manner of an urban planning professional, but as a local and a student with slight knowledge and study of the elements at hand. The great thing about this type of study is that once you learn what the key elements mean, anyone anywhere can observe and conduct their own study in their own neighborhoods – and possibly create their own actions. Go forth and study!

PART I: LOCATION

Public parking lot – designated for use by the McLennan County Courthouse and site of the weekly-Saturday city-endorsed Waco Downtown Farmers Market (WDFM); located 500 Austin Avenue & 501 Washington Avenue, Waco, Texas

Elements Within The Space:

Paths

PV1 = One-way streets designed for 30 mph “high speed” vehicular traffic. Drivers on these streets don’t typically anticipate pedestrians crossing in the middle of the street…

Edges

E1 = The space’s only scenic, soft edge. It features the downtown’s only in-laid brick/concrete/grass combination-soft-edge; offering parallel-car parking…Some activity may occur here in the sense that people may stop and talk and linger for a moment before moving on…

Nodes

N1 = This node directly connects with the E1 edge and is the only location in the entire space that features built-in seating. …used to feature a “public” piano that anyone could play. That piano has now been removed.

Landmarks

L1 = McLennan County Courthouse – Built in 1901. Commencement site of Bonnie and Clyde’s crime tour. Most recently housed 130 bikers arrested during the Twin Peaks shootout.

Districts

D3 = The informal WDFM district (a district because the people make it one)…By 1:30pm this district is a ghost town…Sadly, they do not have a temporary, nor permanent, district sign.

PART II: THE SPACE AT EYE LEVEL

Saturday Morning: This February morning, only half of the D3 lot space was utilized…Typically, the Farmers Market occupies the entire D3 lot space as outdoor retail and community space…Below is what the space looks like less than 1 hour after the conclusion of the Farmers Market – and on Sundays.

Jury Day Morning: This space is akin to a CarMax auto sales lot…

Every Other Morning & Midday: This space is used as parking for courthouse visitors, business patrons, and area employees. No community activities take place in this space at this time…

Evening/Night: No community activities take place in this space at this time…

PART III: CRITIQUE OF THE SPACE DESIGN

Rating Scale: The Austin Avenue side is rated ‘C’. The other 3 sides are rated ‘F’ [Note: This scale is based on the quantity of street-level doors]

My Suggestions: This is wasted, boring space. Redesign the entire city block prioritizing people, public space, and lifestyle over…but I suggest applying the Barcelonian superblock principles…so that any one person can meet every live-work-play function …within this one square block…Learn more about the superblocks model at https://youtu.be/ZORzsubQA_M

PART III is where our presence and voices reign. We live our suggestions daily – or lack thereof.

For my pictures and all the meat in between, click here to view the entire .pdf. All copyrights reserved.


Tami Nutall Jefferson is an older, non-traditional student with a professional real estate background. Tami begins her first academic year at Texas A&M University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Planning and Land Development while commuting between Waco and College Station. Her hope that every Wacoan – from all corners – can engage in and contribute to the growth and success of the city. You can connect with Tami at taminutall@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tami.nutall1

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