The next 18 months could be the most important — and exciting — chapter for downtown in the past 60 years.
What makes this possible is last year’s brilliant ULI Study. It’s the foundation for an unprecedented level of accord and collaboration among downtown stakeholder groups.
This was very evident in the quarterly “ULI” community forum on November 2. The tone was uniformly positive and welcoming, particularly to residents. You can hear it for yourself here.
Assistant City Manager Rod Irwin kicked things off with a status report on the top 13 priorities as identified by the City based on the ULI recommendations. All are either done or in progress.
Five have been completed, including: creating a stakeholder advisory board, settling on a community forum format, identifying & earmarking downtown parcels for development, and creating a business incubator.
The rest are moving right along, including: the North Marina Master Plan, the Bluff/Coachman Master Plan preliminary stages, signage pointing into downtown, investigation about bridge lighting, revisiting downtown design guidelines, a comprehensive boating plan, city branding, and more.
The most important is the Bluff/Coachman Master Plan. The next step is to hire a consultant to run the planning process, particularly the public engagement portion. It’s a huge effort and it will take a while. But that’s a good thing. We all want this done right. Rushing things only increases the risk that the plans might be rejected by voters in the end. (Virtually nothing can be altered in Coachman Park or the bluff without voter approval.)
The planning consultant will be selected at the beginning of the year and they’ll need a couple months to get up to speed. We can expect the planning process to kick off around March, including a series of public engagement forums. Ultimately it could take a year or more to wrap up the the master plan, and possibly up to another year before it actually comes to referendum.
So what does all this mean to us? Well, things are definitely going in the right direction. 2016 will be our chance to directly influence the plans for downtown. We’ll have plenty of opportunities and we need to be front and center throughout. Please keep an eye out for announcements on this site. You can follow the blog by using the Subscribe feature on the front page. (Your contact information will be kept strictly confidential.)