- Public Access Issues
- Harbor Walk
- Linking Downtown and Waterfront
- Cromwell Lane -Veteran’s Park to Union Street
- Pedestrians and Parking
- Municipal Lot at the Stop & Shop
- The Ferry Terminal
- Shuttle Bus Route
- Local Street Circulation
- Service Drive Parallel to Beach Street
- Define Beach Street area
- Post Office Parking Lot
- Access and land uses at Five Corners and Boch Park
- “Speakers Corner”
- Harbor Overlook
- Boch Park
- Multiuse Plaza
- New Uses for Town Properties
- A New Town Hall at the (former) site of the Fire Department on Beach St
- Town Hall / Cornell Theater
- Town Hall Annex and Former DPW Garage
- Police Station
- Summary of Plan Proposals
Figure 2 Downtown Vineyard Haven
Vineyard Haven is one of the most beautiful small towns to be found anywhere. It is also the main port of entry for the entire island of Martha’s Vineyard. Built upon a grid of streets that were laid out before the arrival of the automobile, the town should be a haven for pedestrians. Blocks are short, streets are narrow, and shops and services are all close at hand. Main Street is charming, full of stores, restaurants, a hotel and a movie theater. Surrounding the downtown area is a historic neighborhood of old houses, churches and tree-lined streets.
But automobile considerations, i.e., parking, shopping and ferry traffic, have grown to the point that walkers have been pushed aside and largely ignored. Sidewalks are broken or non-existent, street crossings are poorly marked, connections between major parts of downtown are not defined or don’t exist and great opportunities for public spaces have been overlooked. This is unfortunate because with thousands of visitors being delivered by ferry to the heart of the town, there is a great need (and great opportunity) to organize pedestrian spaces and circulation so they can be absorbed and accommodated.
This lack of pedestrian access is most obvious along the shore where one would expect to find a harbor walk of some kind, but it is also true throughout the downtown area. Moving inland, visitors routinely get lost walking the one block from the ferry to Main Street. Veteran’s Park, a beautiful oasis in the heart of town, is connected by a narrow concrete walk framed by a pair of six-foot chain-link fences. Along a long stretch of Beach Road there are no defined connections either to the harbor or Lagoon Pond. Sidewalks are in disrepair and telephone poles are inserted in the middle of the walkway. And then there’s Five Corners…
Clearly this is bad for business. This clutter and confusion is one of the first impressions visitors receive when they get off the boat and it leaves a lasting impression of the island.
Nor is this a pleasant situation for residents. It is frustrating and annoying to be denied access to the very center of one’s own town, and it is a shame not to make better use of such valuable public resources.
Below are a series of recommendations intended to reinforce the town center, open up access to the harbor, relieve the traffic congestion, improve the economy and restore a more comfortable village atmosphere to a growing center.
Figure 3 Restricted access areas in Tisbury
The Town of Tisbury is surrounded by water but little of it is accessible to the community. In the illustration above, the areas shaded in gray, representing more than half the town and almost all the land anywhere near the water, is restricted in some way.
In the past, we may have been able to count on a series of informal understandings whereby property owners allowed access across their beachfront, but that is no longer the case. Today, more and more land is being reserved exclusively for property owners and their guests while access for citizens of the town is increasingly restricted. Signs reading Residents and Guests Only, Private Road, No Beach Access, No Trespassing, Members Only, Golfers Only, etc. proliferate.
Public areas, by contrast, are few and far between. Even areas that are considered to be for the public – like the section of beach between Owen Park and the Steamship Authority – are, in fact private lands that are used by the public but could, in the future be closed off.
Not everyone owns a boat or lives on the waterfront. Most residents live away from the shore and should have access to clearly defined, easily accessible public spaces that they can share and enjoy.
Figure 4 Harbor walk
A simple Harbor Walk, a pathway, extending at least from Owen Park to Packer Oil would reconnect the town to its harbor and would also be a primary element in creating a coherent, integrated pedestrian system for all of downtown.
The walk itself needn’t be a major project. A heavy bulkhead or wide esplanade is neither necessary nor desirable. A simple unobstructed walking path that would allow everyone to move freely along the full length of the downtown area would suffice. On occasion, where a temporary obstacle may occur, for example if there is a boat being launched at the Gannon & Benjamin boat yard, the route can be easily redirected to the rear of the building without destroying the overall continuity of the walkway.
The existing shipyards and other waterfront businesses are important assets and their operational concerns need to be addressed. Indeed, we may have to take actions to protect these industries since they are so much a part of the life and history of this region, but that alone should not be a reason to exclude the community at large.
The process of creating the harbor walk may take some time but, for now, the most immediate and important action is to establish a public right of way – a pedestrian easement - along the shore; the construction can come later. In return for granting the easements, the Town of Tisbury should consider taking over certain responsibilities such as insurance, police patrols and clean-up. The owners would be relieved of these concerns and might also qualify for a tax abatement compensating for the encumbrance on their property.
There are a number of important concerns that waterfront property owners may have with regard to public access such as the disruption of their operations, the possibility that someone will get hurt, steal something, or do some damage. These are complexities that need to be worked out on a case by case basis with the property owners along the shore. The result would be a fine public asset and a benefit to the whole town.
Tisbury Market / Lagoon Pond Triangle
Figure 5 View of Lagoon Pond at Tisbury Market
Figure 6 Proposed Parks and walks at Tisbury Market (Lagoon Pond Triangle)
At the Tisbury market, there is a very pleasant park-like open space fronting the lagoon. Vineyard Haven harbor is just across the street at the entrance to the market and Veteran’s Park is just to the rear. If a bike/walkway connection between the market and Lagoon Pond Road could be established – either through the center of Maciel Marine facility, going past their Kayak rentals, or to the side of the property – it would create an important three-way link between the harbor, the lagoon and Veteran’s Park. This would establish a continuous circuit for walkers and bikers throughout the major parts of the town. Additional connections are possible in the triangular wedge between Beach Road and Lagoon Pond Road. Moreover, space exists to include a significant amount of parking (60 or 70 cars) in the vacant area between the two roads.
Figure 7 Pedestrian Way from Veteran's Park to Union St.
Cromwell Lane - Veteran’s Park to Union Street:
A series of small improvements such as some clear directions, a little paving and landscaping and the removal of some high chain link fences would go a long way toward making this corridor a pleasant pedestrian walkway linking the park to downtown.
Cars must occasionally use Cromwell Lane for access to the shops, parking and houses in this enclave but, since the way is very narrow, they must travel at walking speed and consequently pose no danger to pedestrians.
Figure 8 Water Street Parking Lot (Stop & Shop)
Our parking areas are, or should be, an important part of the pedestrian system – after all, that’s where you get out of your car and start walking. So there is a need for the two to be integrated – well landscaped convenient places to park connected to attractive places to walk.
In the photo above, The municipal lot on Water Street lot, one can see that there is no place to walk, no shade, no safe crossings, and a confusing parking arrangement. For example, the sidewalk sits flush with the street so there is neither protection for pedestrians nor any indication for drivers where the street begins and the sidewalk ends. Cars searching for an available space must re-circulate out on to Water Street and then reenter the lot
In a recent visual survey, this parking lot was cited as the most serious visual blight on the entire island. It is the first thing visitors see when they land here and the last thing they see when they depart.
In the example below are some suggestions for improving both the appearance and function of the lot and the surrounding neighborhood.
Figure 9 Proposed revisions to the Municipal Parking Lot
The municipal lot adjacent to the Stop & Shop functions largely as a barrier between the ferry and Main Street. Although the ferry exit leads directly toward the lot, there is no defined route from there to Main Street. Moreover, there is no landscaping or other amenity that might make this important public space more pleasant. Nor does it work that well as a parking lot. The existing layout often forces cars to exit onto Water Street and then cross back through the exiting ferry traffic in order to locate available spots. Cars backing out of their spaces also disrupt vehicles that are attempting to get to Water St. without going through Five Corners.
Along with parking needs, the lot serves (or should serve) two other important circulation functions; one as a secondary access road to the ferry terminal and the other as a primary pedestrian route from the ferry to Main Street.
The above drawing suggests an alternate layout that would:
- Create a pedestrian way along the north side of the lot.
- Create safe crossings in and around the lot
- Reduce the curb cuts on Water St. from three to two.
- Eliminate need for parking lot traffic to re-circulate on and off Water Street.
- Design Norton La. as a one-way street separated from the parking lot.
- Widen and landscape the sidewalk along Water St.
- Plant a canopy of trees along the pedestrian ways and between parking bays.
- Be careful not to obscure views.
Figure 10 Ferry Terminal – July ‘05
Just about every issue that affects Tisbury and the island literally converges on the ferry terminal – economic development, access to the harbor, pedestrian circulation, traffic congestion, parking, and public safety. In short, the overall character and livability of the town is affected by how well the ferry operations are integrated into the fabric of the surrounding community.
This is especially true for the economic health of the town. The ferries deliver thousands of potential customers directly to our downtown area. While the traffic congestion in and out of the terminal area is a serious concern, it is nevertheless essential that we create a welcoming atmosphere for visitors, one that will invite them to stay in the town and enjoy its amenities.
The Planning board has begun a series of meetings with the Steamship Authority, our Selectmen, the DPW and the MVC in an attempt to resolve some of the conflicting interests and issues in this area. Below is a preliminary attempt on our part to define these issues and make a few suggestions about how we might address them. More definitive recommendations will depend on the results of detailed traffic analyses in and around this area, alternatives for ferry terminal operations within the site, new safety and security requirements, and a study of the impact of new and larger ferries on the overall area.
Figure 11 Ferry Terminal Area
Ferry Terminal Area Suggested Changes
- Direct Union Street to the west (toward Main St). Allow passenger vehicles, taxies and shuttle busses to take this route. Do not allow trucks or Ferry vehicles to use this route.
- Require vehicles debarking from the ferry to exit via Five-Corners.
- Separate car and bus movements. Close the entry to the Union St. lot from Water St. Have cars enter the Union St. lot from Union St. only.
- Create a Bus Only area at the end of Water St.
- Create a direct exit from slip #2 to Water St. (avoid conflicts with pedestrians within the terminal area.
- Move taxis to a reserved area within the drop-off area.
- Separate the ferry vehicles from the pick-up and drop-off vehicles. Move the ferry entry +/- 30 feet to the south.
- Move the control gate +/- 100 feet into the queuing area to relieve some congestion on Water St.
- Extend the waterfront pedestrian walk through to the Black Dog grounds.
- Develop connections on the north to the beach and Owen Park.
- Create safe, attractive pedestrian ways and street crossings throughout the terminal area and surrounding neighborhood.
Figure 12 Proposed Shuttle Bus Route – Ferry to Park & Ride
This redirecting of Union Street, coupled with improved access through the parking lot also creates opportunities for an alternate shuttle bus route that would serve downtown and other Tisbury neighborhoods as well as ferry passengers.
Figure 13 Revised access around Five Corners and the Ferry
Much of the congestion that occurs in and around the ferry terminal area occurs because there is practically no way in or out of the area except to pass through Five-corners.
The proposed improvements to the parking lots and ferry terminal area discussed above include a redirection of Union Street toward Main Street and the creation of an unobstructed access way parallel to the Stop & Shop lot (an extension of Norton Lane). These corridors create small alternate access ways to allow some local traffic to avoid Five Corners. Vehicles disembarking from the ferry would still be directed to Five Corners but others, shoppers, pick up and drop off cars, taxis and some busses would have the option of entering via Norton La. and exiting via Union St. These lanes would also allow for the creating of the shuttle bus route a route suggested above.
A third lane, running along the boundary of Veteran’s Park parallel to Beach Street would provide access to businesses along Beach Street as well as the post office. This proposal is discussed in more detail below.
Figure 14 Service through edge of the park and post office property
In order to make Beach Street a more comfortable and agreeable corridor and relieve some of the pressure at Five Corners, a small service driveway to the rear of the properties facing Beach Street can be constructed. The driveway would follow the route of an existing park access way and would extend through the post office property to lagoon Pond Road. This section lies within publicly owned properties and involves no takings of private property. With the agreement of some private owners, the drive could be extended from Lagoon Pond Road to Beach Road allowing for some alternate access without going through Five Corners.
The purpose of this driveway is to:
- Relieve pressure at Five Corners
- Create a safer intersection at Main Street
- Create an alternate access way for the post office and other buildings on the south side of Beach Street.
- Allow access to parking at the rear of buildings on Beach Street and State Road
- Provide additional parking for the downtown and park users.
- Provide better access to Veteran’s Park
- Make Beach Street more attractive for pedestrians
Figure 15 Beach Street Corridor – Sidewalks and Plazas
Beach Street, including Beach Street Extension, runs in a straight line from Main Street to the water. Just about every activity of town life intersects with this route. With the Mansion House on one end, the Post Office and Chamber of Commerce in the middle, and Coastwise Packet, the Black Dog and a great view of the harbor at the other end, it is the central avenue of the town and the island.
Nevertheless, traffic congestion and a lack of pedestrian amenities make it difficult to access or enjoy. Sidewalks are narrow and shade trees are non-existent. Along this corridor there are no alternatives to State Road. Traffic in and out of the post office conflicts with ferry traffic and everyone has to go through Five Corners.
Small improvements along the length of the corridor would make a great difference both in its appearance and functionality:
- Well-marked street crossings at Main St.
- New plaza, landscaping street crossing at the Fire Department site.
- Re organized parking lot at the post office to include a wider Beach Street sidewalk, street trees and landscaping
- A set of connecting plazas and crossings at Five Corners
- Overlook at the end of Beach Street Extension
- Waterfront Park
- Multi-use plaza at Boch Park
- Bury the wires
Figure 16 Post Office Lot - Existing Conditions
At Five Corners we have a site that combines the Cumberland convenience store with the post office and, even though the site is in the heart of town, it is designed to serve auto-oriented customers only.
In the sketch above we can see that the building is isolated from the surrounding neighborhood by its own parking lot. There is no public space either in front of the building or at the corner. The sidewalk is narrow and crossings are poorly marked. Fencing and landscaping at the corner obscure the visibility for both pedestrians and drivers.
Suggestions have been made to move the post office out of town but this would not help pedestrians at all and would remove an important locus of community life. Nevertheless, we can make the site much more attractive and more amenable to a pedestrian oriented downtown
Create a corner plaza at Five Corners. Move fencing and visual barriers.
• Widen sidewalks along Beach Street. Add trees and landscaping.
• Create a direct connection from the corner to the Post Office entrance.
• Reorganize parking on the south side of the post office building.
• Raise and pave all pedestrian areas. Create clearly marked cross walks
Figure 17 Post Office Lot - Proposed new layout
Recently, the DPW and the Planning Board have been working with the Post Office to produce a more practical and attractive layout; one that will accommodate drivers and pedestrians alike.
The sketch above shows a new plaza at Five Corners with better sightlines for drivers and safer crossings fro pedestrians. There is also more direct access to the post office building, and wider sidewalks with trees and landscaping along Beach Road and Lagoon Pond Road. Within the parking lot, the layout of the parking spaces has been adjusted so that the pedestrian and landscaping additions do not create any loss of parking spaces.
The plans are being reviewed by the Post Office and we expect to have a final plan finished by spring.
Access and land uses at Five Corners and Boch Park
Figure 18 Five Corners / Beach Street Extension / Boch Park
At the end of Beach Street is Five Corners, the most congested intersection on the island. Nevertheless, Beach Street Extension, the segment from Five Corners to the waterfront, is relatively lightly used. It functions primarily as a parking lot serving the Black Dog restaurant, Black Dog Tall Ships, the Tropicana restaurant and the other businesses along the south side of the street. Entry to the street is not too difficult but exiting out into the traffic is both confusing and dangerous – four corners are bad enough and five are impossible. Pedestrian crossings here are particularly difficult. The five intersections create a very wide crossing area with traffic coming from all directions.
Adjacent to Beach Street Extension is Boch Park. This site has good access from Beach Road and a pleasant park-like frontage overlooking the harbor. Prior proposals to use this property as a parking lot have been stalled over disagreements about the appropriateness of such a use and also over the number of cars planned for the available space.
Efforts to deal with this area are complex, touching on traffic, parks, parking, property ownership, and economic development issues. In this proposal, the objectives are to:
- Improve the circulation around and through Five Corners.
- Remove a visual and functional barrier between the two sides of downtown.
- Create better access to the waterfront
- Provide safe crossings through this dangerously crowded intersection.
- Provide attractive spaces to gather and enjoy downtown and the waterfront
- Improve the visual quality of the neighborhood.
- Add to the inventory of parking spaces downtown.
- Create opportunities for the surrounding businesses to expand their operations.
In the above proposal, we are recommending that we integrate the circulation between Beach Street Extension and Boch Park. Vehicles may enter Beach Street Extension at Five Corners but must exit through a driveway connected to the adjacent Boch property. This simplifies the movements at Five Corners considerably – reducing it effectively from five corners to four. It also allows for a sidewalk along the north side of the street (there is no space for one available now), and it allows for an expansion of the plaza at Five Corners. By expanding the sidewalks and plaza spaces here, pedestrian crossings are much simpler and shorter. There are fewer conflict points and better sight lines. In the end, we can create a much more attractive public space and also greatly improve the safety of this intersection.
Within the Boch property, the critical public spaces are those facing the shore. The waterfront portion of the property would make a very pleasant waterfront park - a stopping point on the Harbor Walk. A line drawn roughly parallel to the shore at the rear of the Gannon and Benjamin building defines enough space on the waterside to accommodate a walkway, some benches a picnic table and a beautiful view of Vineyard Haven Harbor.
This is an important piece of waterfront property at the center of the town and we need to explore methods either to acquire it, or at least secure the waterside portion of it, for public access and uses. It may be possible for the Land Bank to assist us in this effort but in any case, we need to begin a conversation with the owners about how best to proceed toward this goal.
The parking lot can be designed as a plaza-like, multi-purpose space with shade trees and brick or similar pavers. When parking demand is light, the plaza space would remain attractive and could be put to other uses such as an outdoor market area or café seating. During times of heavy demand, a valet parking arrangement would accommodate about sixty cars on the property.
The circulation in and out of the lot can be coordinated with the redesigned Beach Street Extension to simplify access in both of those areas.
Figure 19 Existing Fire House on Beach Street
Maintaining our emergency services within the congested downtown area has become more and more problematic. This is particularly true for our Fire Department. It is located in the heart of town, on our most heavily traveled street. It is adjacent to the post office and across from the hotel. In an emergency, it is very difficult to bring the volunteers in to get the trucks and then to bring the trucks out to the fire.
The town has authorized a consultant study to analyze the fire department and other emergency services needs, compare available sites, and make recommendations. In a preliminary draft, the consultants have already concluded that the current site is impractical and all of the potential new ones lie somewhere within the Upper State road area.
Our own study of the Upper State Road area has identified several sites where new emergency services could be accommodated. One in particular – a site on town land off High Point Lane near the water tower looks especially promising. However, the practicality of this site depends on the outcome of plans to construct a connector road between Edgartown Road and State Road. A survey and road layout is to be done this summer and a final report will be available by the end of this year.
[See the Upper State Road Land Use Plan for more details]
Today about half of Town Hall operations are crowded into what is essentially the basement of the old Congregationalist Church on Spring Street. Most of the remaining municipal agencies are in an annex several blocks away on Spring St. in a small structure across from the school. This is an arrangement that is both confusing and inefficient. While it is essential that we preserve and maintain the old church, it is not necessarily the best venue for a town hall. The church is in a historic residential neighborhood and parking is limited. Without the town hall, the old church would be freed to adopt some more compatible new uses (see section 9. below).
Studies in the past have suggested moving all municipal functions out of downtown and concentrating them in a municipal building – possibly at the annex site. Below are three arguments against this idea:
First, if you take town hall out of the heart of town, you take some of the heart of the town out with it. It is important, both for practical as well as symbolic reasons, that our town hall is located in a prominent location adjacent to our other major business and government institutions. The current location isn’t ideal but at least it is part of the historic town and near the downtown activities.
Second, a municipal building on the edge of town would be a car-oriented, suburban arrangement. This requiring an extensive amount of parking and generating a significant amount of unnecessary trips.
Third, not all municipal activities are compatible with each other. Police, fire and emergency services have different needs than, say, the building department or the tax assessor’s office. The emergency services, who have to respond to calls around the town, have reason to be out of the congested downtown area, but the administrative services can benefit by a close proximity to businesses, shops and stores.
The Fire House Site:
- It is in the heart of the town on its most prominent street.
- The property fronts on Beach Street and opens to the south on Veteran’s Park.
- A walkway past the property extends from the park to Cromwell Lane and from there into the downtown business area.
- Additional land for parking is available at the rear of the site.
The site could include an entry plaza facing Beach Street which would provide a safe crossing at that location and create an attractive space for pedestrians on Beach Street.
A recreation center at the rear of the building might also be included in the lower level facing the park so the building could stay active on evenings and weekends as well as weekdays. The building’s parking lot would also provide extra spaces on evenings and weekends for park visitors and shoppers.
The building could house mostly municipal services and small to mid-sized meeting rooms. Larger meetings could still be held at the school, Cornell Theater and the Senior Center.
The former town hall spaces would then become available for social services, a youth center, or other non-profit organizations. The annex site could be used for teacher’s housing or other affordable housing development.
Figure 21 Town Hall / Cornell Theater - view from Spring and William St.
Figure 22 Town Hall / Cornell Theater - view from William St.
Theater & Cultural Center
With town hall functions relocated, Cornell Theater can concentrate on presenting cultural events for the island. Lectures, concerts, theatrical events and community meetings are already presented here and with the town hall relocated, space becomes available for offices, dressing rooms, technical equipment and other supporting facilities that are not now available. Any additional space could be used by a not-for-profit organization, social service agency or other qualified user.
Figure 23 Town hall Annex – Spring St. across from the school
Figure 24, Town Hall Annex property on the left DPW garage on the right
Housing / Day Care Center
Just east of the annex property is the former DPW site that is now used to store town vehicles. With the proposed new vehicle storage area at the landfill, this half-acre property, now underutilized as a vehicle storage facility, could also be used for an additional two or three units of housing and/or a day care facility.
Figure 25 Police Department building at the rear of the municipal parking lot
The police station currently occupies a central but functionally awkward location on the back side of the municipal parking lot in downtown Vineyard haven. From this location, vehicles must pass through the often crowded parking lot as well as Five Corners to answer calls.
It seems preferable to maintain a small police presence downtown – perhaps a desk within the ferry building – and move the bulk of their operations to a location out of the downtown area.
In addition to its locational difficulties, the existing building also suffers from a number of awkward conditions. It is not clear to the public where the main entry is located (you take an elevator to the second floor). It is badly laid out for police needs and difficult to maintain. Some rooms are reached by a steep ladder to a third floor attic. Emergency vehicles can barely fit into the building and police vehicles use parking spaces that might otherwise be available for downtown customers.
The structure is essentially a two or two and a half story building approximately 35’ by 110’ with about 8,000 square feet of floor area. Located less than a block from the ferry terminal and halfway between the ferry and Main Street, it could be a valuable commercial property. And if the proposed parking lot improvements are carried out, the site would be easily accessible and even more valuable.
The town could either sell or lease the property and use the income to finance the relocation and redevelopment of the police department and other municipal services.
- Create a “Harbor Walk” along the shore of Vineyard Haven Harbor. Extend the walk in both directions as the opportunity arises.
- Develop a connecting pedestrian system linking all the major areas of downtown and the waterfront.
- Integrate new and old parking lots into the pedestrian system.
- Work with the Steamship Authority to reorganize pedestrian and vehicle access in and out of the ferry terminal and integrate those movements into the larger context of downtown.
- Change the direction of Union Street toward Main St. to accommodate downtown shoppers, create alternative bus routes and reduce congestion at Five Corners.
- Re-route the park and ride shuttle to serve Main Street and Tisbury neighborhoods. Define Beach Street – from Main St. to the water - as the central corridor of the town.
- Relocate the fire department and other emergency services to a site out of the downtown area.
- Consolidate the town’s administrative functions in a new town hall at the (former) site of the Fire Department on Beach St.
- Develop new uses for existing town properties
- Town Hall
- Cultural Center
- Affordable Housing
- Commercial Development