Hundreds of people gathered at CoMMA Wednesday night, June 7, 2017, to hear the presentation of the draft Downtown Master Plan and give some input on which projects they thought the City and the community should tackle first.
The presentation was the climax of a month’s-long planning process to provide guidance, vision, and inspiration to help move downtown Morganton to the next level.
“I am beyond proud at the number of people who showed up last night, and the sheer number of positive comments that I heard about the plan and the presentation,” , Main Street Director Sharon Jablonski said.
This illustration by Stantec staff shows improvements to the Historic Courthouse Square; the lawn has been leveled, some sidewalk is removed, and a permanent stage is shown at the southeast end of the square. Check out photos from the evening and images from the presentation on our Facebook page here.
The master plan process started in February this year when the City hired Stantec. Since then, Stantec has gathered data, analyzed downtown retail and residential spaces, gathered public input, and held a week-long charrette that was open to the public. The firm then took all of their data and distilled it into a vision based on two core principles, seven key goals, plus a Top 10 in 5 (years) list of next steps.
Stantec’s Craig Lewis made the presentation and discussed the principles, goals, and top 10 list in detail.
The two core principles of the plan are to “Put People First”, and “Life Begins at the Square.” Speaking about putting people first, Lewis said, “This seems like a simple thing ... it’s the people that walk around, it’s the people that shop, it’s the people that go to restaurants ... it’s not the cars. And unfortunately for many of our communities we’ve spent a lot of time investing in how to make cars happy. We need to flip that.”
The seven key goals are to restore two way operations to the streets, maximize the Courthouse Square as a more flexible public space, focus activity into the core, diversify and expand housing, connect to the community, embed art into everything, and have fun and experiment.
This illustration shows a conceptual design of the old Kimbrell’s building site at the corner of W. Union Street and N. King St. into a four-story mixed use development with commercial on the first floor and residential above. Check out photos from the evening and images from the presentation on our Facebook page here.
This illustration shows a conceptual design for possible residential development in the areas around Fonta Flora on N. Green Street. Check out photos from the evening and images from the presentation on our Facebook page here.
After reviewing the goals, Lewis presented a list of 10 things he recommends the City and community do in the next five years to keep building on the energy and investment in downtown.
The Top 10 in 5 are:
1. Complete feasibility study, final design, and construction of the two-way street conversion
2. Adopt a ground floor active use overlay for the core [downtown] blocks
3. Increase retail & restaurant use on the ground floor of the core to 90%
4. Attract a hotel to downtown
5. Move the Arts Council to pioneer a new block and expand public art opportunities both permanent and temporary.
6. Begin Courthouse Square Improvements
7. Construct 100 new housing units in the downtown
8. Convert College Street to a greenway street connecting the downtown to the Broughton and State property Campus
9. Bury or relocate the overhead utilities around the core
10. Create an outdoor courtyard space behind Brown Mountain Bottle Works
Converting the one-way streets in downtown back to two-way operation is the top recommendation of Stantec. Craig Lewis, Stantec, said that two-way streets increase visibility, improve vehicular access (most direct route), reduce driver confusion, often decrease crash rates, stimulate higher levels of economic activity, and are more efficient. Check out photos from the evening and images from the presentation on our Facebook page here.
Lewis said these projects would require hard work and investment by the city and the public.
“We presented a lot of ideas, a couple that are big, that will require coordination by the city fathers and mothers [that require tax dollars],” Lewis said. “A lot of these other things are hundreds of different little ideas on a block by block basis ... where you all can have an opportunity to continue to inject new ideas and new life into these areas.”
At several points during the presentation, Lewis asked for input. Lewis asked the audience to use their smartphones and answer online polls. As people gave their answers, the polls would update in real time. After reviewing the Top 10 in 5, Lewis asked the audience to vote on their Top 5 from the list.
The audience picked the following five projects to focus on:
- Begin Courthouse Square Improvements
- Increase retail & restaurant use on the ground floor of the core to 90%
- Complete the two-way conversion
- Attract a hotel to downtown
- Create an outdoor courtyard space behind Brown Mountain Bottle Works
The audience answered several online polls during the presentation, including selecting their Top 5 projects from the Top 10 list.
Jablonski said that getting feedback in real time via the online pole was a great way to let the community prioritize the plan and build buy in.
“You could feel the energy last night, and I think there was an overall desire to move forward with many of these plans,” Jablonski said.
But there is still more to do. The consultants will take the feedback from Wednesday night, finalize some documents ideas, and present a final plan to the City Council later this year. The Council will ultimately have to adopt the plan and the vision for downtown.
Check out photos from the evening and images from the presentation on our Facebook page here. Download the presentation below.
Downtown Master Plan Draft Presentation Video
Use these links to jump ahead:
- Welcome, Mayor Ronnie Thompson, ~ 1 minute
- History and Success of Previous Plan, Sharon Jablonski, Main Street Director, ~ 5 minutes
- Background on the Process to Create the New Plan, Craig Lewis, Stantec, ~ 13 minutes
- Two Core Principles, ~ 1 minute
- Seven Key Goals, ~ 1 minute
- Summary and Challenge to Move Forward, ~ 7 minutes
Learn more about the Downtown Master Plan at http://bit.ly/DowntownMasterPlan17.