Fabric Row will get spruced up with streetscape improvements

Historic Fabric Row, aka the 4th Street corridor, has been undergoing a renaissance in the last couple years as boutiques have taken up residence (we told you about one today!)  in vacant spaces interspersed among the fabric stores. The transformation has helped make the area not just a mecca for sewers and crafters, but a uniquely charming shopping destination.

4th street
Looking south on 4th from Bainbridge


The South Street Headhouse District hopes to capitalize on those improvements and help keep them coming by using a recently awarded Community Design Collaborative grant to improve the overall streetscape in the hopes of attracting and keeping business.

At a recent meeting between the CDC design team and the neighborhood Task Force, conceptual design plans were revealed (which we’re still trying to get our hands on). Key to establishing identity is the gateway proposed at 4th & Bainbridge.

That dovetails with another CDC design grant project for the Friends of Bainbridge Green, the park area on Bainbridge between 3rd and 5th that we told you last month was getting redesigned as well.

The redesign would also organize street amenities like parking meters, street signs, electric poles, honor boxes and assorted trees and planters that are now haphazardly placed and lacking in conformity and rhythm. Suggested improvements to reorganize street fixtures include curb bump-outs at key intersections to calm traffic and present opportunities for greening and pedestrian seating.

These unused trolley poles are a point of contention
These unused trolley poles are a point of contention


In addition to the usual amenities are the historically protected trolley poles. No longer in use, the poles are to some business owners an extreme annoyance devoid of purpose and taking up valuable sidewalk real estate. To others — including the design team — the poles are an opportunity to meld the past with the future. If used as proposed, these poles could enhance the sightlines and work as “frames” for more regularly programmed art installations and holiday programming.

For shop owners the CDC offered a “kit of parts” that offer them various options to display merchandise, install canopies, tables and benches and other unifying elements to suit the needs of the individual business while unifying the street. The parts will be readily available off the shelf.

This stuff is/was the lifeblood of this stretch
This stuff is/was the lifeblood of this stretch

The CDC also intends address the lack of lighting, which currently comes mostly from overhead street lamps designed to guide vehicular traffic rather than pedestrians. This combined with the fact that most shops close in the early evening and extinguish their interior lights means the street is entirely uninviting after dark.

For the most part, the plans were well-received, though, similar to what happened at a recent Bainbridge Green meeting the old guard raised feasibility concerns based on historical experience. Implementation, they rightly argue, will require funding and cooperation, which may prove difficult considering the vastly different opinions on the responsibilities of businesses to the street, their neighbors and the community at large.

– Lauren Leonard, editor of greenLimbs.com