Master Plan Completed For Downtown

Master Plan Completed For Downtown This graphic demonstrates how downtown Vermillion may appear after elements of the streetscape plan are implemented. Above is a photo of Main Street as is appears today, from Court to Market streets. Below is a sketch of how that same block of buildings could appear according to the plan. (Graphic courtesy of city of Vermillion) by David Lias The master plan for streetscape improvements to Vermillion's downtown area is complete.

That doesn't mean all of the heavy lifting is over, however.

Consultants 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, described the plan at a special city council meeting Thursday.

The audience learned that the desired improvements don't necessarily come cheap.

But, the two men emphasized, the investment will be worth the cost.

The consultants estimated what it would cost to complete the work by breaking it down into phases over a seven year period. Expenditures during some years, in their estimates, are much higher than others.

Total cost for the seven years of work: $2.185 million.

"The main goal of this document isn't necessarily to dictate when things get implemented, but just from a designer's point of view, how you can implement things over time and really start to get some impact from those improvements," Jacobson said.

The plan includes a detailed analysis of downtown's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The area's strong points include enthusiasm of public for change and the existing downtown architecture.

Weaknesses include perceived lack of parking, vacant storefronts, vandalism and litter.

Opportunities identified include downtown promotional events, and attempts to encourage second floor residential living above many of the Main Street businesses.

Threats to the streetscape plan include

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apathy and lack of vision, lack of capital improvement monies and conflict with existing Cherry Street development.

Clark said he and Jacobson have worked with cities that have made downtown improvements in smaller, less expensive steps.

"They've done all the lighting, or they've done all the crosswalks," he said. "This is just a budget tool we use block by block. The options are infinite."

Clark repeated advice that he has given at streetscape development meetings held earlier in the year here.

"We do recommend that you move something forward that is small and can be easily done," he said. "We think that there has been energy developed in the community, and we think that if people can see one thing coming out of this pretty soon, we think that they will feel pretty good about it.

"If it's something small and simple, we think that will be a great start," Clark said.

The process for developing the streetscape master plan began last October. A highlight of the process occurred Nov. 20-21, when consultants held day-long marathon meetings with groups of stakeholders in the city's downtown, gathering feedback and ideas.

The vision of the plan includes expanding bump-outs/nodes, unique pavement, seatwalls, fixed benches, sculpture and landscape improvements at certain intersections downtown.

Other suggested improvements include updating storefronts, pedestrian scale lighting, new concrete walks with paved borders, new signage/banners, and landscape improvements.

The master plan seeks to

* create an urban environment that supports and encourages an active street presence and makes downtown a unique district in Vermillion.

* establish an appropriate image and improve aesthetics for the study area.

* create a "sense of arrival" to downtown Vermillion.

* enhance safe and friendly pedestrian linkages within downtown and to campus/Cherry Street.

* focus on the unique and historic character of downtown in all details of the design.

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