By Kirby Neumann-Rea • Of the News-Register • 

Take survey by May 13 on Third Street design ideas


The Third Street redevelopment project, years in the making, reaches a critical point this week. About 60 people attended an open house on May 3 on the preferred alternatives, and two online open houses happened May 5 and 6.

An online survey offered through May 13 asks specifically for peoples’ views on two preferred alternatives of what might happen above ground, with designs and layout of trees as well as a design scheme for hard features including lightposts, benches, and planters. Go to take the survey.

Planning director Heather Richards said last week at the project open house that the city has been talking about Third Street since 2000 “in terms of the need to do something, either from a discussion of what I call the above-ground frosting pieces, the landscaping and art and things you see, and also in regards to the foundation, which is the infrastructure: the streets, sidewalks, water pipes and wastewater pipes and broadband and how to service our businesses downtown.

“We’re at that critical stage of taking a look at the frosting pieces, the furnishings, the landscaping, street trees. We want to get input from people,” Richards said. “These are the pieces people see and usually feel the most connection to.

“In terms a of furnishing program, we have a whole variety of different furnishings, many of them memorials to people in this community that were fundraised to bring them in, and are very important to who’s here and who’s here in the future, so we ned to keep those, and also continue to build on this really unique sense of place.”

The survey addresses the current phase, described by Richards as “a high level conceptual design,” which precedes the engineering phase”where we come up with the construction documents.

“The whole idea is to get in front of the infrastructure funding that’s coming from the federal government to see if we can leverage (city) Urban Renewal dollars we have to get federal dollars, and to get those federal dollars we need to have those construction documents ready to be at a construction-ready state “ she said. “So we are working on a time frame in which to get those done, we hope to by turn of the calendar year, sometime early to late winter, so we can apply for grants next year.”

No construction is expected in 2023 or 2024, according to Richards.

The survey asks for feedback on surface treatments, but the larger concern with the state of Third Street is what lies below ground. Much work will be done there — from new street grades, underground utilities including broadband, and stormwater drainage upgrades — as well as above: trees and other plantings, and features including lighting, benches, planters, and more; both new or redesigned features and retention of existing ones, memorial objects in particular.

“Our sidewalks are in disrepair, and there are a lot of concerns about accessibility issues, because of our sidewalks, and our streets are designed in such a way that we are struggling with stormwater retention and there is a lot of puddling downtown,” Richards said last week.

After recent heavy rains, that problem was clearly seen, particularly at street corners.

The trees are presenting an above-ground problem that is aggravating issues below ground.

“Our trees, which offer that great canopy downtown, are also lifting the sidewalks because of how big they are,” Richards said.



If city planners are worried about treescapes ruining sidewalks and other utilities as their roots grow, then why not implement this idea:

1)close third street to cars
2)third st would now be pedestrians only
3)Move all trees from sidewalk areas to the center of third street

See Charlottesville, VA for ideas on what this could look like. They have a stunning walking mall that's vibrant and beautiful.

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