Downtown master plan ready to be written




After its fifth public meeting, city planners feel they now have gathered enough information about priorities and preferences that they can start preparing an initial draft of the downtown master plan.

The master plan is intended to guide improvements or enhancements that will help attract more business and general activity to downtown.

"We have enough information now. We have input on priorities. We're going to put something together and present it back to the people," Roberto Becerril, city planner, said during an interview on Wednesday, a day after the fifth public meeting on the topic.

Becerril said the draft document will be presented to the public during a meeting on June 4. Copies will be available at that meeting for anyone who wants to read the draft.

"Hopefully, we'll have included everything they want. Then we'll proceed to the planning commission," he said.

It's also possible, Becerril said, that people will want to have an additional meeting to make some changes to the draft before it goes to the planning commission for discussion.

At Tuesday's meeting, public input helped narrow down some of the issues that have been discussed previously.

Becerril said by consensus, a majority of the public favors turning Main Street into a three-lane road, at least temporarily.

With two through lanes and a center turn lane, the three-lane configuration would be tried temporarily for a period not to exceed two years. After that, there will be a review to see if the public likes three lanes or wants to return to the current four-lane configuration.

"If people say no, it's not wanted, it's not working for us, then it will go back to what we have now. If the consensus is yes, let's keep it that way, it would become permanent. But it would have to go through the whole process of citizen consensus, governing body approval and implementation," Becerril said.

When it comes to nightlife or types of businesses, while the public prefers a mix of casual and fine dining options, and indoor and outdoor venues, Becerril said they also acknowledged things like restaurants or entertainment businesses will be market driven. The city's role would be more along the lines of amending zoning regulations, he said

Becerril said the city also has the ability to make spaces available or create flexible structures for events. On Tuesday, he said people preferred trying to create a semi-enclosed structure downtown where things like a farmers' market, wedding or car shows could be held.

There was also discussion Tuesday of creating a gateway for downtown. Becerril said most people preferred a gateway arch type monument at two locations on Main Street, one at Kansas Avenue and the other near the Amtrak depot.

"What was discussed was wanting something to define downtown. As you're driving down Kansas Avenue, you see something and think, 'That looks pretty cool. Let's drive down there and see.' Something that will catch your eye as your driving and make you want to explore what's going on," he said.

The master plan is essentially a list of conceptual ideas. Nothing is being designed at this point, Becerril said.

"We want to take as many ideas as we can because this is how people in the downtown area and everybody else is going to see the downtown. We want people to continue to have a great experience and continue to shop, allowing businesses to be successful," he said.

The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 4.

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