It’s not a park. It’s not a plaza. Most people wouldn’t even consider it a public space. Functionally, it’s not much more than a sidewalk, but it accomplishes much more.
The South Hills section of Charleston, West Virginia is primarily a residential area across the Kanawha River from downtown. Bridge Road winds through the hills and about halfway up there is a small shopping area. Although it’s always been busy, it hasn’t always been pedestrian-friendly. A couple of years ago, a project was completed that created a unique environment and made the area much more walkable by incorporating some of the basic principles of good public spaces.
A plain concrete sidewalk would have met the basic functional requirements but would have done little to actually encourage people to walk. Instead, the walkway is enhanced by a curved design, plenty of landscaping, and several benches. But the most unique feature of the walkway is the hand-forged, treescape railing with elements suggesting Charleston’s identity as a river community.
The design elements grab your attention, draw you in and make walking a pleasant option. Besides providing access to the South Hills shops, locals know you can park along the street and enjoy a short walk to one of South Hill’s trendy hot spots, Lola’s. Lola’s is located in an unassuming old frame house and is famous for its gourmet pizza and casual, friendly atmosphere (a cool space in its own right). Thankfully, the sidewalk project doesn’t end before it gets to Lola’s. In fact, more landscaping, benches and a monumental sign all serve to create a unique public space.