From the Studio – Spanish Fork Utah

The first in our “From the Studio” series focuses on a recent trip Andrew Vesselinovitch took with the American Planning Association’s Community Planning Assistance Team to Spanish Fork, Utah in an effort to curate a shared vision for the community.

Street fronting, pedestrian-scaled buildings.

Existing condition: ninety-six feet, curb to curb.

Proposal: linear park, up to thirty four feet wide and one quarter mile long.

The pro bono program of the American Planning Association ( assembles an experienced team to develop a framework or vision plan for communities facing a range of challenges.  Our team included: a real estate economist, a historic business district advisor, transportation and sustainability planners; and myself with expertise in urban design, architecture, and active transportation. We were asked to advise Spanish Fork on how to improve its Main Street.  Spanish Fork has grown tremendously, from approximately 7,000 in 1970 to almost 40,000 today.  However, public investment in commercial development on the periphery and incremental changes that have converted Main Street into a highway (removing crosswalks, removing diagonal parking, replacing street-fronting buildings with stand-alone structures with parking lots, etc.) have left the commercial core worse off.

Over the course of the week, the team spoke with, or heard from, at least 200 people.  The City and team hosted a barbeque, open houses, and a working walking tour.  We were filmed and interviewed (almost daily) by local television stations who were interested and engaged in the evolving conversations.

Elected officials, government staff, business leaders, and residents seemed very open to our ideas.  The focus of our proposal was to create an environment in which people would want to walk, linger, shop, and socialize.  Our recommendations included: pedestrian-scaled signage; improving safety for pedestrians at intersections; encouraging preservation and the development of new buildings that are good neighbors to, but not copies of, existing buildings; and directing public investment in a way that supports Main Street.  Our most “radical” proposal, which people seemed to like, was to harvest an approximately 30-foot wide strip of the street for conversion into a landscaped and occupiable linear park. The final product, a written report, is at least a month away from completion, but will include a myriad of observations and ideas that the city can take action on.

– Andrew Vesselinovitch, AICP, Associate AIA