Streetscape consultants urge city to take action

Streetscape consultants urge city to take action Brian Clark of Brian Clark and Associates, a landscape architecture firm from Des Moines, IA, describes details of plans that have been developed for streetscape improvements in Vermillion's downtown business district. Clark and Jon Jacobson met with local citizens Tuesday at the William J. Radigan Fire and EMS Center. by David Lias The consultants who are working on Vermillion's historic streetscape plan in the downtown district had one piece of important advice to citizens Tuesday night.

Don't wait.

Brian Clark of Brian Clark and Associates, a landscape architecture firm from Des Moines, IA, and Jon Jacobson, a landscape architect with TSP of Sioux Falls, used a power point presentation to show their latest plans, sketches and photos of possible improvements to Main Street and the surrounding area in Vermillion.

They've boiled down all of the input they've received so far, Clark said, and used that information to develop a "hybrid concept that spreads the streetscape flavor from Dakota Street to Washington Street."

The design respects Vermillion's historic corridor and provides safe crosswalks and infrastructure for events.

"It really is designed to be a framework for the retail shops to thrive and get their storefronts noticed," Clark said.

"We know that all the business owners want to help to contribute to the downtown area, and as a new tenant moves in or if a business owner decides to do some improvements to his building, we want to help establish some guidelines and suggestions to help them improve their facade," Jacobson said.

Those suggestions may include moving signage to expose more of the original

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brick exterior of downtown buildings, and a consistency in the awnings and canopies utilized by some stores.

"Ninety percent of our store owners in all of our communities want to do the right thing," Clark said, "and I think our master plan needs to suggest directions for store owners to move toward.

"If you have a picture of what is the ideal storefront, you have a guide to go from, and that's going to help everyone downtown," he said.

Jacobson said the final plan for downtown will include design guidelines, cost estimates, and a phased implementation plan associated with those costs that talk about things the public has indicated are important.

That phased plan likely may mean making improvements on just one block of Main Street. "We might have people get used to it, look at it for a year, and then do another section, but a lot of the elements are going to be the same as we go along," he said.

"Some cities like to do everything at once," Clark said. "Other cities do just the lighting and then come back five years later and do the paving or other infrastructure."

He said possible revenue sources for the improvements could be a bond issue, tax assessments to the downtown property or use of other city tax funds, such as the second penny sales tax.

"The best thing we could do is find a phase-one project that we can afford and we can do as soon as possible," Clark said. "That will show the people we are involved in the process and the city is not just about planning, it is about doing. Let's show people who are involved in the process that the city is about doing things right."

Simple things, such as new lighting, or new benches, would be a good start, he said.

"It shows people that you're about action, and about organized, great action," Clark said.

The two consultants will return to the community on April 29, and present a report with much greater detail to the Vermillion City Council at city hall.

The public is urged to attend.

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