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Designing a Downtown

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On Friday, July 19, 2002, the SBA hosted an open house at La Quinta Inn. It was an opportunity to met the volunteer, Governor-selected representatives that comprise the Idaho Economic Development Counsel, as well as many of the professionals from the Idaho Department of Commerce, including the Director of Community Development Jan Blickenstaff. On display were representations of the Downtown design ideas, and conversation was lively as people shared ideas on the many initiatives underway in Sandpoint.

This was an opportunity for the Economic Development Council to review Sandpoint’s economic development efforts, including the upgrade to Fifth Avenue, and the plans for downtown revitalization undertakings. Hosting such gatherings to help educate both public citizens and public servants is part of the momentum communities must generate to be positioned for receipt of a Community Development Block Grant. Such funding fuels major capital improvement projects like the Fifth Avenue project.

The Hudson Group “Downtown Revitalization System” (DRS) presentation takes you through every element of key design projects already presented to the Sandpoint City Council. If the design projects are implemented as suggested, vast improvements in the layout of the downtown would begin, creating a pedestrian’s dream and a attractive center for community and tourists alike. Outlined below are many of the design specifics, as presented in the DRS.

The design plans are focused to create maximum impact on what is considered the “heart” of Sandpoint – the area between Second Avenue and Third Avenue, Main Street and Oak Street, next to Farmin Park. If you don't envision this area as Sandpoint's heart, then you haven't yet taken a look at what's in the works.

The structural improvements are broken into three distinct segments. “The Phase 1 Focus Project on Second Avenue will establish the template for the character and style of streetscape improvements for future phases,” the plan explains.  Phase 2 suggestions are all predicated on the finalized plans for how Highway 2 and US 95 will intersect, and therefore, many downtown designs ideas and traffic routing patterns must wait until ITD completes their analysis.

The design elements in Phase I stress a pedestrian environment. One way this is enhanced is with intersection bulb-outs or large, wide, rounded curb areas. “The key intersections of Main at Second and Oak at Third present an opportunity to enhance pedestrian space and safety by employing “bulb-outs” at the sidewalk and curb- line. Pedestrian safety is enhanced by this design element by allowing pedestrians to be seen better by motorists, as well as shortening the distance to cross traffic from curb to curb. Intersections with bulb-out curb lines also act as a passive “traffic-calming” design feature.”

The second key priority is illumination. “New pedestrian oriented illumination in the city center will add a dramatic improvement in the nighttime environment of Downtown Sandpoint. The street light style recommended by the SBA design committee will add a vertical stylistic feature to the streetscape, with downward- focused luminaires to maximize illumination and minimize glare. Luminaire poles will also have matching banner arms to hold colorful customized seasonal banners, which will add vertical dimension and visual interest to the downtown environment.”

Approximately three luminaries will be installed on each block: one on each corner and one at mid-block. The power supply to luminaries will be installed in underground conduits. By improving the nighttime lighting downtown, pedestrians will feel safer. Motorists will be able to see both other vehicles and pedestrians better at intersections. Shopping hours, civic and nighttime entertainment activities will be enhanced. Employees who must walk to their parked cars after dark will feel safer when parking in employee designated parking areas.

The Phase 1 Demonstration Project will permanently realign the concrete curb to a conventional cross intersection at Oak and Third. The new public space remaining behind the new curb line, which was previously Main Street, will be joined with the mall parking lot on the northeast corner of Main and Third, which was recently purchased by the City. The front portion of the Town Square will be permanently dedicated as a pedestrian oriented public space, with an architectural focal point consisting of a fountain, sculpture, and/ or accent lighting. The surfacing will be colored brick pavers. This location will be a visible and prominent feature when looking down Main Street from First or

Second Streets. This space will be surfaced with stamped concrete so that the area can offer multiple uses. During the weekdays the space can be used for parking, and during special events it can be blocked off for expanded pedestrian uses adjoining with the rest of Town Square.”

As described last issue in TRJ, the “bull pen” parking area, which has already been improved, would completely go away. When you are on First Avenue, looking down Main, you would see a plaza or Town Square on the right (as you go west) and the next street intersection would be Third and Oak. In the plaza people could see and observe what was going on, or potentially get key information on things to do in town.

In the area of parking, “it is recommended that two blocks of Second Street between Church and Cedar, be designated as a one- way street northbound. This will allow one side of the street to be re-striped for diagonal parking while the other side remains parallel parking. Likewise, two blocks of Third Street between Church and Cedar can be designated as a one- way southbound. This also would allow re- striping the street for diagonal parking on one side, and parallel parking on the other. The traffic and striping changes to these four blocks will add 11 parking spaces to the city center at minimal expense.

“The re-formation of Sand Creek as a natural resource and amenity to the city center is a key strategy of the Downtown Plan as well as an element of the Sand Creek Byway design concept. The easterly extension of Main Street, east of First Street, is presently a poorly kept alley which provides access to private parking along Sand Creek. This underdeveloped access to Sand Creek will be improved with new paving, sidewalk, and illumination. 

Although loading access to the Panida Theater must be maintained, the large south wall of the Panida building presents a prime opportunity for a mural. This improved pathway to Sand Creek would lead to a waterfront amphitheater, to be developed in a later phase of the Downtown Strategy.” 

While selling these ideas to City Council, educating the public on the various options, and working with businesses to strengthen our marketing statements, the SBA is coordinating how the funds will be raised to tackle such ambitious projects. For detailed diagrams and concept sketches, please visit Constance Buxton in her first floor office on Main Street.

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Carol Curtis

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Sandpoint, Hudson Group, DSBA, downtown

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