Last year Jeff Louman of Louman Huibregtse Associates told the Sunnyside City Council about an action plan for revitalizing the city's downtown core.
Last night he returned with Colie Hough-Beck, landscape architect for HBB Landscape Architecture. The pair went before the council to review the ideas presented last year and to let the council know a possible funding opportunity could potentially provide $2.7 million for the project through a Surface Transportation Program grant.
That funding, said Louman, would make it possible to start construction in 2014, if secured.
Presenting renderings of what downtown Sunnyside could potentially look like, Hough-Beck said the steering committee indicated the heart of the downtown revitalization project would be the intersection of South Sixth Street and East Edison Avenue. She said the committee advised planners on streetscape designs that are important to the community.
Louman suggested opening up the space by widening sidewalks and exchanging diagonal parking within a four-block radius of South Sixth Street and East Edison with parallel parking.
He said those who provided input did not want to give up a lot of parking, but the streets should not be designed like those in Grandview with one side of the street filled with parallel parking and the other side having diagonal parking. Louman said the transitions from the portion of the streets designed in such a way would be confusing for motorists.
Louman said bulb-outs would be used at entrance intersections like South Sixth Street and East Franklin Avenue, but they were not planned for the central intersection at South Sixth Street and East Edison.
Councilman Don Vlieger said he would like to see bulb-outs at the main intersection and believes it would be appealing.
Louman said his staff was led to believe the intersection was to be left free of the design element for large trucks, but Vlieger said South Sixth Street is not a designated truck route and signage could be installed indicating that truck traffic is prohibited.
The discussion turned back to Hough-Beck, who continued to share elements of the design that have been discussed during steering committee meetings.
Brick pavers along the edge of the sidewalks and scored concrete were among the preferred material choices for the walkways.
"The steering committee wanted tree grates for the trees closest to the corners," said Hough-Beck, stating the choice was made to help preserve the roots and prevent pedestrians from trampling over the base of the trees. She said globe lighting like the light fixtures historically used in Sunnyside was an attribute the steering committee liked about the design.
To draw the eye and delineate the downtown corridor from the remainder of the city streets, Hough-Beck said the group decided bulb-outs would be useful at the entrances to downtown. The group thought story poles might be an interesting feature of those entryways.
Vlieger and Councilman Jason Raines did not like the story pole idea. They both said the story poles depicted in the graphic rendering of what the streetscape would look like were unappealing.
Louman said, "This is really a community decision and it's about the community identity...these are ideas."
He said the story poles in the rending were merely place holders and Sunnyside's story poles could look entirely different, something unique to the community.
The two council members said they would like to see bronze statues located at the corners.
Community members were provided an opportunity to speak and Bill Flower agreed with Vlieger and Raines, stating he believes "...the bronze statues are our story poles."
Dale Beck spoke before the council, stating he doesn't like the idea of removing parking from the downtown core. He said, "Sunnyside has always had a parking problem."
Neither he nor Flower indicated there is a benefit to larger sidewalks.
Beck said there aren't any restaurants in need of outdoor seating areas and the existing businesses would not benefit from a wider sidewalk area.
Flower said foot traffic wasn't impeded in the past when the city's downtown businesses had sidewalk sales and its hardware stores placed merchandise out front.
Beck also said he isn't pleased with the plan because there are still a lot of variables. He said a decisive plan is needed and the city needs to stick to that plan.
Jennifer Beck continued the thought, stating, "I don't think we have to get extravagant."
She said the couple's downtown jewelry store has suffered from a lack of business since the downtown corridor has stopped being the center of commerce. "We have become a destination," Mrs. Beck said of the store, stating people who patronize the business do so with a concerted effort.
She said the customers that do visit the store are typically farmers with pick-up trucks. She believes limited parking would hinder their access to the store.
Jon Nelson spoke in favor of what was presented to the Sunnyside City Council members. He said, "Sunnyside has to start somewhere...the plan presented is a good start."
Nelson said he believes the concept is a way for Sunnyside to begin the effort of revitalizing the community.
The estimated cost for a complete downtown revitalization, including upgrades to utilities, is $3.66 million. Base street improvements, Louman estimated at a cost of $2.3 million.
Louman urged council to seek a Surface Transportation Program grant but said he was willing to return to the council with revisions to the design suggested by the council members, including a rendering of what the corridor would look like with parking like Grandview's, as well as bulb-outs near Centennial Square.
Sunnyside Interim City Manager Frank Sweet said he believes it is important to make the downtown corridor more appealing.
"It's fantastic that you've found a way that we maybe can construct this in 2014," he told Louman.