Monday, September 24, 2012
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Downtown Revitalization Committee hosts public meeting

Part 3: A fresh look for downtown landmarks

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[September 24, 2012]  Last Tuesday night the Downtown Revitalization Steering Committee hosted a public meeting to share results from two days of workshops the committee had hosted.

During the course of the evening several topics were approached: examination of current conditions in the downtown area, evaluating the assets of the community and recognizing hurdles to re-creating the downtown district.

At the end of the evening, Darren Forgy of Prairie Engineers talked about some suggestions that have been made for making the city more attractive.

He shared drawings from Kent Massie on how a fresh look might be given to the two county-owned parks, Latham and Scully, as well as the Logan County Courthouse on the downtown square.

The drawings are only suggestions at this time. No decisions have been made to make any changes to any of the three areas.

Massie Massie and Associates is the firm that designed the plans for the APEX at City Center.

In Latham Park, which is located one block north of the square on North Kickapoo, the bandstand is the focal point of the park.

Massie thought the sidewalk surrounding the bandstand needs a facelift. He suggested a plaza area that pulls the sidewalk away from the walls of the bandstand to create a larger space around it.

In addition, Massie noted that there are sidewalks on the outside edge of the park, but only on three sides. His concept drawing suggests adding a sidewalk on the north side of the park. At each corner of the park, the drawings added features, such as a bike parking area, an information kiosk and an outdoor café.

The new plan also included revamping the playground area, adding things that would be more toddler-friendly and regrading the slopes along some of the sidewalks leading to the bandstand to make them more level.

In Scully Park, Massie recognized the fountain as the focal point of the park and drew plans that would make that area a better social place. He once again extended the sidewalk areas around the fountain. In addition he added pergolas on either side of the fountain plaza and a small stage area at the south end of the plaza.

At this park, he moved the playground equipment to the east side of the park. He also added an outdoor café in that playground vicinity and placed family shelters on both the east and west sides of the park.

At the Logan County Courthouse, Massie suggested making the statues around the building focal points on the sidewalks, just as the Civil War statue has been created to do. This would involve moving the Indian statue that is currently on the south lawn to one of the four corners.

There is currently an information kiosk on the southwest corner of the lawn. Massie suggested it be moved to the McLean Street side of the courthouse and centered in the broad sidewalk that leads from the street to the courthouse steps.

Massie, who was not present for the meeting Tuesday night, had also shared with Forgy that he thought it was very uncommon for someone walking on the sidewalk to be able to reach out and touch the walls of a courthouse.

He suggested relocating the sidewalk around the courthouse, bringing it out a few feet from the building and filling the gap with shrubbery. Massie's drawing also incorporated more trees in the lawn.

Other items that Forgy talked about were problems that had been mentioned during the workshops. One is that there are a lot of above-ground utility lines in the city. Forgy said the workshops relating to traffic, infrastructure and utilities had brought up that the city should try to find a way to get those utility lines underground and out of sight.

Other problems that came up in the discussions were the sewer odor coming up from the combined sewer system and the blinking stoplights.

Forgy said the groups had agreed that something needed to be done about the blinking stoplights. He said the majority were in favor of putting in stop signs but wanted them to have a decorative element. Others were concerned about taking the stoplights away because of their age and historical value to the city.

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Talking about creating a connecting corridor from the rail station to the downtown area, Forgy showed a slide of a street in another town where the sidewalks had been widened significantly to make them better for foot traffic. In order to preserve the parking, the street had been narrowed and made one-way. He said this was an option the city could consider.

In another slide, he showed an example of a city where the curbs of the downtown sidewalks are built out into the street area. These are referred to as "bump outs." He said the primary purpose for doing something like this in Lincoln would be safety. He said building the curbs out at the intersections would allow people to step out far enough to see around parked cars before crossing the street. It would also make the walking distance in the actual street shorter.

Another slide illustrated how another town is making the pedestrian crosswalks more visible for walkers and motorists. The crosswalk area was a different color than the street -- brick red in that particular crosswalk.

As had been stated earlier by Ian Colgan, Forgy said again that parking is a big issue in the downtown Lincoln area.

In the discussion groups, Forgy said the majority were in favor of bringing back parking meters to the downtown area in the hopes that it might prevent people who work in the downtown area from taking up a prime parking space for eight or more hours at a time.

Forgy said that technology has improved the payment options for parking meters. He said today there are options to pay for parking at a kiosk and also apps for paying by cellphone.

As the evening drew to a close, Forgy fielded a few questions from the audience.

He was asked if in the development of these plans, consideration had been given to the maintenance cost of the new landscapes. Forgy said that that has been addressed in the plans.

Another comment came that there was a concern for vandalism of the parks. JoAnne Marlin said that was always a big problem for the county in that they would invest in something, then it would be damaged, and they would have to invest again in repairing it.

Forgy said they were looking at vandal-resistant products for the playgrounds and other areas.

Colgan also spoke up on that issue, saying that today there are "holes of activity" in the downtown area. He said if the city develops a more active downtown area on the whole, there would be less opportunity for vandalism.

Finally, there was a question about providing more bike parking space downtown. Forgy said it has been discussed, but the big problem came with the lack of parking for vehicles. He said it wasn’t worth giving up the vehicle parking spaces to add bike parking.

Forgy ended the evening by telling the group that the steering committee for downtown revitalization has a Facebook page. Interested parties can go onto Facebook and search "Lincoln downtown revitalization" to find it. Also they have plans in the works for a website and hope to have it up and running in the very near future.


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