Sunday, June 1, 2003

Different cities see pluses, minuses in skywalks



Baltimore removed two pieces of its skywalk to spur development at Charles Center, a downtown mix of shops, restaurants and entertainment. In both cases, the links were rarely used and viewed as a public nuisance.

Four years ago, the city eliminated a span that connected the downtown convention center to Mechanic Theatre, an important performance venue at Charles Center.

"It was creating sort of a dark spot in front of the major buildings, and it was a good haven for vagrants. Nobody used it," says Shubroto Bose, architect with Baltimore Development Corp. "By taking it down, it made the (nearby) plaza much more open and pleasant." Another link was removed more than a decade ago for similar reasons.

Most of Baltimore's skywalk system remains. It links seven blocks from Charles Center to the convention center, major hotels and Inner Harbor, a massive riverfront development.

stars
Milwaukee's skywalk system connects eight blocks with two links over the Milwaukee River through downtown.

In the mid-'80s the city set aside money to connect another 4-5 blocks on the eastern edge of downtown, but Mayor John O. Norquist killed those plans when he took office in 1988.

"The mayor hasn't been a big fan of a fully completed skywalk system," says Jon Wellhoefer, president of the private, nonprofit Milwaukee Redevelopment Corp.

Despite Norquist's opposition to an expanded system, he has supported additions over his past 15 years in office.

Despite some criticism that the system robs street life, the skywalk remains popular with downtown office workers, tourists and convention goers, according to Vanessa Welter, spokesperson for the Greater Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau.

stars
Downtown Minneapolis' massive skywalk spans nearly 7 miles and 75 bridges and is widely regarded as one of the nation's most successful. It links the Target Center, a convention center, hundreds of shops and restaurants and 3,500 of 6,000 downtown hotel rooms.

New links are constantly added to the maze, including an addition last November linking a vibrant redevelopment known as Block E with Hard Rock Cafe, GameWorks, a theater and hotel.

The city and private investors share ownership of the skywalk, depending on location. As in Cincinnati, when a link runs through a private building, the owner of that building is responsible for maintenance, heating and air-conditioning of the glass-enclosed passages. The city must maintain links through publicly owned buildings, such as the convention center.

Building owners also provide their own security forces because police rarely patrol the above-ground walkways.




TOP LOCAL STORIES
Downtown skywalk falls into disfavor
Skywalk map, details
Different cities see pluses, minuses in skywalks
Three die in fiery crash on I-74
Child killed when car jumps curb
Aquarium proposal strikes some as fishy
N.Ky. skatepark opens

LOCAL COLUMNS
PULFER: Successful revenge of the nerds
BRONSON: Fox puts county courthouse on trial
SMITH-AMOS: Anti-loitering drug law has serious flaws

AROUND THE TRISTATE
Adoptions increase at animal shelter
Lebanon mayor does it all
Runaway girl eludes search
Blue Ash delegates sampling sister city
Tristate A.M. Report
Parish ready to start building
Obituary: Zara T. Burkey, retired teacher
Obituary: Olen Grandle donated land for school
Good News: Kids tutored on building trades jobs

OHIO
Ohio Moments: Hamiltonian found greatness in San Diego

KENTUCKY
Independence may add amphitheater
CROWLEY: Historic race falls apart
Justice Dept. joins Paducah plant suit
Dorm fire victim's family may sue
Murray St. hikes tuition 15.9%
Republicans hold unity rally
Fugitive who shot at cops pleads guilty
Company owner won't hire teens
Ky. town mecca for Appalachian punkers