Public views options to enhance downtown

Public views options to enhance downtown Jon Jacobson of TSP, Sioux Falls, stands in the shadows as he points out parts of the downtown Vermillion streetscape plan. Consultants and citizens discussed various aspects of the plan at a public meeting Jan. 29. by David Lias A small group of Vermillion citizens reviewed conceptual plans Thursday, Jan. 29 at the Jefferson Street Fine Arts Center showing what the city's downtown business sector could look like in the near future.

The proposals are part of streetscape planning that was launched in the community last year. In a November, a day-long marathon of input meetings between various community groups and consultants was held.

Participating in the information gathering and plan development is Jon Jacobson of TSP in Sioux Falls.

"We call these people stakeholders," Jacobson said. "They are people who would really be affected or impacted by this project � everybody from landowners to store owners to student groups to inn keepers to city council members.

"We got people's thoughts and ideas of what could be done to make things better," he said. "This is the result of some of that, and there are a lot of details that haven't even been talked about yet."

Jacobson and Brian Clark of Brian Clark and Associates, a landscape architecture firm, described design ideas for Vermillion's downtown that were flashed on a large screen during a power point presentation.

Features of the various concepts presented Thursday included:

* Parking to accommodate customers, business employees, residents, service/maintenance personnel and equipment, delivery vehicles, etc. and any existing or proposed ordinances that might affect downtown parking.

* Space utilization, such as first floor commercial, second floor residential and commercial, building infill, open space, etc.

* Aesthetics, including parking nodes, walkways, lighting, etc.

* Public pocket parks, which are green spaces for passive public use.

* Traffic flow for vehicles and pedestrians and directional signage from the highway and major streets within the community, and traffic calming options.

* Building maintenance, including store fronts but also general structural exterior maintenance.

* Store fronts, an issue that would be addressed with design guidelines for building renovation.

* Seasonal beautification � banners, flags, lights, celebration events, etc.

* Landscaping/streetscaping � flowers and trees, benches, tables and chairs, outdoor art, etc.

* Gateways, specifically a structure of some kind, such as arches or signs, to inform the public that they are entering a unique area of the community.

* Cultural/entertainment � an outdoor place where cultural and entertainment events can be held.

The streetscape plan includes maps, sketches, drawings, graphs and photographs to assist Vermillion's public and private sectors in revitalization efforts.

Jacobson showed citizens concepts of three possible plans for downtown's development. Each was unique, but at the same time, shared many similar qualities.

Each plan would introduce trees and decorative street lighting, and treatment to street pavement in some areas to help identify gateways and the core area of the downtown district.

"A gateway would not only help identify the city of Vermillion, but would also help identify the downtown area," Jacobson said. "Once someone comes into town (after the redesign) they would begin to see signage and theming elements

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that would help lead people downtown."

A goal is to enhance a traffic and pedestrian corridor along Dakota Street that would lead traffic on Cherry Street and students on the USD campus to downtown.

Jacobson said he and other consultants have tried to keep the plans simple because of a limited amount of money available to fund the improvements.

"You'd be surprised, when visitors come through Vermillion, what kind of impression certain images make upon them about what kind of town Vermillion is," Clark said. "These are places, we think, that are key to capturing opportunities to let visitors know what Vermillion is all about."

Clark said there is a lot of "energy and flow" traveling east and west in the city, referring to traffic on Cherry and Main streets.

Vermillion would greatly benefit, he said, if those energies could be leveraged through a promotion of traffic north and south between Cherry and Main.

Citizens interested in viewing the concepts developed by the consultants may view copies of the plans at the Vermillion Chamber and Development Company office.

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