10 September 2009

New Zoo Entrance

I've been holding back on my comments about the new pedestrian bridge over Vine Street until I had a chance to use the entrance myself. When I saw it under construction, I originally thought they were going to make it work with a gentle ramp up from the lot to a point further north where Vine Street goes downhill. Since both the parking lot and the zoo side of the street both are hills, it seems like there were ways to design this bridge so as to avoid the troublesome elevators and steps. I also didn't like the folksy look at the new entry buildings. There are some pretty nice buildings in the zoo, and until now they have avoided this aesthetic.

So last weekend I finally entered this way, and was pleasantly surprised. Simply put, the new entrance is a great success.

The one problem I have heard reported is that the elevators cannot move enough strollers fast enough. I didn't see any evidence of this, as we took our stroller up the escalator, as did many others.

Vine Street Entry a few years ago:

The same corner today:

The entry in the 60's:

Vine and Erkenbrecker a hundred years ago:
historic photos from here

Here is the new entry building, located in the new parking lot west of the zoo, across Vine Street:

You have a choice of Escalator and Elevator:


Bridge Entrance:

Ticket Gate:

Membership Building. Up close these buildings are not as bad as I originally thought. They actually are pretty nice, and function well too:

Solar Ticket Machines:

A bonus shot of Rhino with missing horn:

Our favorite exhibit lately has been the nocturnal house. Yours?


Dan said...

I've always liked the bears.

Matt said...

I always like the train... as does everyone else, it seems.

Nice post. From what the little money the Zoo seems to have every year, they did an excellent job with this.

Anonymous said...

The best part of the new entrance is that it's the historic connection with the Vine Street cars.

CityKin said...

The old streetcars had a turn-around and carbarns just to the north on Vine. For a new streetcar it should either run on Erckenbrecker or perhaps terminate the line at the new Route #1 turnaround at W Shields Street. This would be a great way to utilize the new entrance.

Matt said...

...and just think how much more land they would have for the animals if they scrapped the old parking lot inside their block (by Dury Ave). A possible outcome with the development of the streetcar, I would think.

Dave said...

Google news reports there is an 8 year old female Cheetah at the Cincinnati Zoo that has set the fastest speed record, twice.

Anonymous said...

We were just at the zoo on Labor Day, for the first time in a year (once my kid got to middle-school age he began to think the zoo too babyish). The new entrance was much easier to negotiate than it looked at first (I thought there'd be stairs), and all the new buildings made us feel like we were someplace we'd never been before.

I liked feeding the giraffes the best. It was a thrill to be next to them. Such lovely eyes.

Blue Ash Mom

hegemo said...

Wow, that's quite a change. My first ever job was working as a cashier at the Zoo (it was such an awful place to work that I haven't been to the Zoo since I quit in 1990, but that's another story...). The Vine Street gate was lightly used and got held up from time-to-time, so most people didn't want to work there. I loved working that gate because it wasn't as busy as the Autogate, so I could read and listen to music and be yelled at by fewer angry people. I used to always trade so I could work there instead of the Autogate. I was lucky and never got robbed when I was working there...

matt said...

Maybe its just me, but I dislike the entrance. The construction is nice, and by the pictures it seems like it looks really nice and has a good flow from inside the parking lot. But the interface with Vine at street level is what kind of offends me. They turned what seemed to be an accessible entrance (not for cars necessarily) and turned it into a towering fortress. That area has had a good deal of work done...it seems recently a number of old trees were torn out going down Vine, which while sad in its own right, does now provide a nice visual corridor down to the zoo entrance. The problem is that for an area thats generally known for density and walkability (Clifton), that side near the zoo and hospitals is increasingly less of those things.

The lots from Childrens and the Zoo are quite sizeable as it is, and they just tore out more buildings between Erckenbrecker and the VA on Vine for what I assumed was going to be new development, but just turned out to be more surface lots. It seems like that area could be nice judging by the fact that it is anchored by a college hospital campus, a zoo, and a collection of fairly amazing historic houses that have not yet been torn down for more parking lots. Theres a nice little restaurant and business corridor that exists up on Jefferson that could certainly benefit from some actual building density and road connections where the parking lots currently are. But with the zoo being all walls (which is completely necessary, I know) it seems like having a fortress entrance in addition to wide empty spaces and a lack of any businesses or residential area makes it ever less enticing to walk or bike down there. I wish that the park was more accessible, like the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, which is similarly park and zoo space, but interfaces with the surrounding city instead creating this sad buffer zone around it. Even if some of the parking lot had semi-permeable pavement that was planted and a walking/bike path down the middle (fence it in if you so feel the need) I feel like it would be a huge improvement for the people and the area.

In short I think the zoo is making some great improvements, and its commitment to creating green buildings, like the education center with the huge PV array, is great. Its an awesome institution for our city, and is a good piece of history, but if they want to continue to be this great place, maybe they should try create a vibrant community out of the area that seems to be stagnating around them.

DP said...

Having a kid who's an early bird, the old entrance was kind of nice because we always got there in time to get a good spot right near the main gate. But the one time we had to park in the Vine Street lot (before this improvement) - man, that sucked.

Used the new entrance a couple weeks ago. Worked well for us - even using the elevator. The project also added a food stand with good sandwiches and a new beer stand...

Now that she doesn't have to get to the zoo early for a good parking spot, maybe the kid will start sleeping in. (wishful thinking)

Favorite exhibit: gorillas.

Matt said...

In regards to Matt's comment:

It would be nice to have a Zoo that opens up the outside world a little more, but personally, I like entering the Zoo and feeling like I'm in another world - it's an escape. I don't think incorporating Vine Street or Clifton into the mix would be that pleasant, though, I am with you on the surface lots surround the zoo - they suck.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like through the ages, the Zoo has slowly tried to purchase more and more land for expansion, and that new land almost always starts out as new parking, then later shifts to more animal space when they can later purchase even more land. The truth of the matter is that people have to park somewhere (but a streetcar system might stem that tide), and space is obviously limited in that part of town.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Matt's fortress comment. That is something I felt but could not articulate. It's why I was surprised how easy it was to get from the parking lot into the zoo -- it looked difficult to enter and make one's way through.

In the old days we sometimes parked on the street and walked into the zoo to save a few dollars. I looked around on our way out to see if doing that was still an option with the new entrance, but I couldn't tell.

I imagine many people in the zoo's target audience think the neighborhood around the zoo is scary, so maybe for them this entrance is reassuring. It always seems to me that the zoo is very strategic in everything it does.

Blue Ash Mom

CityKin said...

^totally agree with Blue Ash Mom

The Zoo recognizes that a high percentage of their customers come from the far suburbs and rural areas. There are all kinds of license plates in the parking lot, and these people are not interested in interracting with the good people of Avondale.

I find the people watching more enjoyable than the animal watching. You see everything at the zoo from Old Order Mennonites to Mullets.

I also have a freind who lives across the street from the zoo, and it is fascinating to hear the Macaws screaching and the elephants trumpeting right in the middle of the city.

The old parking lots will eventually become more exhibit space and more green. I think the Zoo is probably done buying property, though I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Since the young one & I have been going to the zoo by bus from downtown for 5+ years, I will say that the old Vine entrance wasn't open enough to be a welcoming entrance... This entrance is much more welcoming for us than walking up the block to find the mystery pedestrian entrance next to the car entrance... then walking across a parking lot to get to the actual entrance to the zoo. I don't understand the "historic vine street entrance" name for it - it doesn't look anything like any historic zoo entrance to me, but I guess they just mean the location?

Lately, we've been thrilled to see the tiger cubs as well as enjoying the Wings of Wonder show. Bad jokes never fail to amuse my kid! One day late this summer, the best thing we saw was a momma robin teaching her baby to fly... you can't beat that!

Anonymous said...

Many zoos spend a lot of attention and money on their entry plaza, as this first impression that visitors get can make or break the experience. This was a very interesting article, especially with all of the historical photos.

Allen Nyhuis, Coauthor: America's Best Zoos