Good support for downtown plan

Published 10:09 pm Friday, June 22, 2018

City Council on Wednesday approved its downtown master plan after more than a year of work by a consultant and hopeful input from the community.

The vote was unanimous, and for good reason. The plan featured a mix of simple, common-sense solutions to aesthetic and functional issues along with a few bold recommendations to help solve one of downtown’s biggest problems — a lack of foot traffic.

The plan saw a significant amount of support from downtown residents, business owners and workers. One vocal group has devoted itself to the concept of a new downtown library, which was one of three big projects proposed in the approved plan.

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It’s certain the widespread public support is the direct result of the multiple opportunities for public input. The consultant, Benchmark Planning, set up shop in a vacant retail space in the heart of downtown last summer and invited folks to come give their input and ideas. The consultants seemed like they were interested in listening and learning, and it wasn’t just one night, either — they held daytime and evening sessions for an entire work week, giving plenty of time for almost anyone to be able to make it. That was the first sign they actually wanted community input.

Some of the consultant’s suggestions, like improving the streetscape, were obvious. Others had been suggested before and, for whatever reason, never stuck. But a few bold plans will require lots of planning and investment from the city.

The consultants suggested a new, multi-building library square anchored by the new library with an additional component of education, small business or living options. A festival and market square also is proposed, as is a mixed-use residential and historic rehabilitation plan in the East Washington Street corridor that would likely incorporate a public-private partnership plan.

It will be years before these projects come to fruition, but the city should start working now on making it happen.