A large and enthusiastic crowd showed up for the Sunnyside Downtown Revitalization meeting last night.
More than 25 people crammed into the conference room at the Port of Sunnyside office to participate in a discussion led by consultants Colie Hough-Beck of HBB, a Seattle landscape architecture firm, and Jeff Louman of HLA, a civil engineering firm. Both worked on the award-winning Grandview revitalization project.
The audience was made up of business owners, town leaders, planners, grant writers and interested citizens. The turnout was expected to be much smaller. The consultants were pleased with both the size of the group gathered and the enthusiasm shown by the crowd.
The discussion was led by Hough-Beck, who explained the parameters of the project. For example, the project will focus on infrastructure, not improving the buildings in the downtown area. She also explained the differences between Yakima's and Grandview's downtown projects, stating that Sunnyside is more like Grandview in that the town will start with a plan and find funding next.
The next exercise was to define the downtown. The general consensus was that downtown is centered on Sixth and Edison, but some dispute arose as to where the boundaries of downtown actually are. A core of Fifth to Seventh and Franklin to Decatur was outlined on a map by Louman.
The group was next asked to list assets and liabilities of the city, and came up with so many that Hough-Beck had a difficult time keeping up with the suggestions as she wrote them down for the group to see. Even while listing liabilities, people seemed positive about the issues.
Louman stepped in to mention that some of the liabilities could work to the city's advantage in getting future funding. For example, it can be very difficult to get funding for road improvements, but Sunnyside's under-the-street utilities need to be upgraded, and funding for utilities can also be used to repair and improve the roads that must be dug up to get to the utilities.
One recurring theme during discussion of assets was the spirit of volunteerism and community in Sunnyside. The Facebook group "You know you've lived in Sunnyside when..." was brought up as an example of the spirit of the town. The volunteer upkeep of Centennial Park was also a topic of discussion.
Events held in Sunnyside were listed, and Hough-Beck was impressed with the number of and pride in local events, along with how many are held in Central Park. While Sixth and Edison may be the heart of downtown, the heart of the community might be Central Park.
The meeting, running a little over the allotted time, concluded with group members' concepts of a great downtown. Then the entire group was drafted to be the steering committee for the project and possible future dates for meetings were discussed.
This morning the consultants led a "Walk and Talk" around the downtown core to discuss the features that exist and what should be improved. Future meeting times will be sent to the group and publicly announced when dates are set.