By Errol Casten/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Architect Edye Conkerton presented a concept plan to Oxford city officials Tuesday that could transform the popular downtown square into an almost entirely pedestrian space.
Conkerton’s concept plan would make the Square essentially a business-lined park, with vehicles limited to only a traffic circle that would connect North and South Lamar Boulevards.
“If you’re coming in on South Lamar, you’re coming in on this beautiful, tree-lined street, and when you get to the square, it changes completely – same thing with North Lamar,” she said. “I took pictures from eye level, and what you see is cars and traffic.”
Conkerton noted that even downtown storefronts are largely hidden except from the adjacent sidewalks by cars, trucks and SUVs crowded into most available space.
“The Square is actually looking beautiful, but you don’t see it,” she said.
Conkerton noted the leisurely feel and multiple uses of such well-loved public spaces as New Orleans’ Jackson Square, the Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Ore., and New York’s Rockefeller Plaza.
She noted several elements that make a public space vital: “People engaged in a wide range of activities and uses; diversity of ages and balance of genders; people present in groups as well as alone; and most parts of the public place are used – at different times of day.”
Conkerton suggested that one step in making the Oxford Square more human-friendly would be to convert most existing pavement eventually to vegetation, seating and other park-like features.
Mayor George “Pat” Patterson emphasized that the suggestions presented Tuesday were not a firm plan for the near future – especially considering the loss of some 170 downtown parking spaces.
“This would be done in conjunction with a parking garage,” he said. “What you pay us for is to do a little forward thinking. I don’t want anybody to think we’re going to present this next week or next month.”
Conkerton said transforming traffic patterns and moving parking would pay off in the long run.
“You’d be losing parking spaces, but you’d be gaining an immense amount of pedestrian use, people coming down here and property value,” she said.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.