Downtown still focus of attention

Downtown still focus of attention by David Lias Streetscape improvement plans for Vermillion's downtown business district haven't gotten lost in the shuffle, even though the city has been busy with issues ranging from Wal-Mart to new industries coming to town.

Kevin Jacobson, chairman of the Downtown Vermillion Streetscape Implementation Committee, briefed the Vermillion City Council on progressive steps the committee has taken since last July.

After meeting with Dr. Timothy Donahue, executive director of Preserve South Dakota, the committee developed a projects list last September based on features identified in the streetscape master plan.

The list includes: bump-outs and crosswalks, parking options, pedestrian and street lighting, landscaping, accommodations for bicycle traffic, signage, outdoor art or sculpture, pocket parks, and outdoor furniture and amenities, such as benches, tables, chairs, trash receptacles, flower containers and bike racks.

"We've organized three committees," Jacobson said. "Those committees are dealing with establishment of the open spaces and pocket parks, outdoor furniture and other amenities and the signage issue."

By early December, the committee studying outdoor furniture and amenities hopes to have ideas of specific types of furniture to purchase.

"One of the things that we will be looking at between now and next spring will be sponsorship by corporations, institutions, other community businesses and individuals to try to fund the outdoor furniture," he said.

The streetscape committee has also been working with city staff members on possible revisions to city ordinances that would allow outdoor furniture, art and gateway structures to be installed on downtown sidewalks and public boulevards.

"Right now there are some limitations in some of the existing ordinances whereby we would not be able to see the kind of improvements we would like to see," Jacobson said.

On Nov. 14, committee members took a field trip to nearby communities to see what types of streetscape improvements they had accomplished.

"Committee members were very happy to see the various types of improvements that have been made in those communities," he said, "and it gives us a better feel for what the finished product might look like in downtown Vermillion."

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