It’s been an identified need for a long time in the center of downtown: A simple place to answer nature’s call. The problems have been obvious, with long lines of portable toilets adding their odor and aesthetically unappealing presence to numerous events. Families out on the square with no where to turn when one of the children needed a facility.
I’ve extolled the virtues of downtown living in a number of ways over the years, but one of the biggest advantages is simply being able to run home for a bathroom break. Anyone who has spent much time downtown, particularly late at night, has seen the result of a lack of facilities playing itself out on the sidewalk, in alleys and in garages. When you have to go . . .
Still, adding public restrooms to the mix of downtown is not without challenges. Where to place them has been a struggle. How to ensure public safety is a concern. They’ll need to be maintained and monitored. Design is important both for function as well as for aesthetics.
The city and Smee + Busby Architects seem to have sorted out all the issues very nicely. The new restrooms – men’s, women’s and family – will be located on the north end of the Market Square Garage. Located mostly inside the current structure, the renovation will include an extension of the exterior of the restrooms toward Wall Avenue. The protruding portion will include signage, attractive surfaces (detailed in the drawings) and a vertical garden for good measure.
The exterior of the new restrooms will be largely surrounded by a translucent glass partition which will feature LED lighting. This feature will provide a dramatic source of interest at night, but will also increase safety by allowing persons approaching the restrooms to see the form of any person waiting behind the partition. For additional safety, the location allows for the nearby parking attendant to be aware of who is coming and going.
The restrooms will not be open twenty-four hours a day, but they will be open from early to late, with specific hours yet to be determined. The interior will have toilets and sinks made of metal and counter-tops made of cement offering good durability. Both are handicapped accessible, of course, and the addition of a family restroom will be a joy to every father who spends time in the city with a young daughter and probably the reverse, as well, though I can testify to the first-hand experience with the father-daughter issue.
So, while restrooms in a parking garage may not be the most glamorous addition to the city in recent history, its importance should be acknowledged. The fact that the city fought through the obstacles and that Smee + Busby made the new facilities not simply functional, but attractive, deserves some accolades as well. And I didn’t even mention the fact that this adds a use to a parking garage – which is always a good thing. I believe I’m correct in saying construction should start very soon.