Every city in the world is looking for ways to make its downtown streets friendlier. Two of the most common methods are to add colourful banners and hanging baskets of flowers to brighten up what can often be a cold and grey environment.
Tacky Plastic Flowers
Flaneuring Calgary’s downtown recently (being the everyday tourist that I am), I was again appalled that someone thought it was a good idea to add hanging baskets with plastic flowers at the 7th Avenue downtown stations. I was appalled months ago, but I thought it might pass. Is it only me, or do others think this is just tacky?
Banners are better!
I can understand why they did it - the street is lined with rather ominous office towers and there is no light for flowers or plants to grow – especially given Calgary has only 110-frost free days. Also, artificial plants are very low maintenance – no watering, fertilizer and deadheading needed.
However, there is a better solution - banners. Calgary has a very active and attractive banner program in other parts of downtown – Stephen Avenue Walk, downtown bridges, 17th Avenue and Kensington Village.
Where Have All The Banners Gone?
The 7th Avenue LRT Stations already have banner poles and I have seen banners up from time to time. However, there doesn’t seem to be a strategy or program to hang seasonal banners at all times as there is in other high pedestrian areas. With over 100,000 people using 7th Avenue every weekday, you would think it would be a high priority area for making it the most attractive place possible.
Currently there are banners are up at the 8th Street LRT Station, sponsored by the University of Calgary (its downtown building close by). So, it would seem if a downtown business or organization wants to create their own banners, Calgary Transit is willing to will let them use the banner poles.
Love These Banners
And at the same time I was observing the lack of colour along 7th Avenue, I was enjoying the lovely banners on 14th Street as I crossed over the beautiful Bow River on my walk into downtown. The current banners - with their colourful and playful Impressionistic paintings of downtown – are lovely; they would be a delightful addition to downtown’s 7th Avenue LRT stations, which currently are very barren, grey and industrial.
I have always thought banners are better than flowers, as they add colour year-round and there is minimal maintenance. The best banner programs are ones that change with the seasons, to help keep the sense of place fresh.