— By BRIAN SMITH
Weatherford City Council members Tuesday night got a look at the draft of an action plan to develop the downtown area and its sphere of influence.
Assistant City Manager Sharon Hayes said the plan comes from working with a number of focus groups and city staff during the last eight months or so. Four plan areas — making the area more inviting, economic development, keeping the downtown area historic character and safety concerns — were broken down into 20 subareas that will be worked on over the next several years, funding permitting.
Some of the ideas to accomplish the plan goals were listed as part of a report Hayes gave to the council:
Improved technology with wi-fi in businesses and music, enhanced aesthetics, including more lighting, benches, landscaping, gathering places and a way-finding system along with expanded programming with smaller monthly events and the creation of a Downtown Merchants Association are all on the agenda to make the area more pedestrian-and shopper-friendly, which many respondents to recent surveys and meetings say is needed and could be done relatively soon.
Having more events on the square would increase revenue and visibility to businesses on the square, according to a staff report.
Marketing of the southeast quadrant of the square with the creation of street events and more entertainment venues are being considered along with preserving and marketing the T&P Depot north of downtown. Preserving the historic character of downtown, which current business owners say they want to do, could be done by providing incentives for facade restoration of those businesses and even those that are presently vacant.
Creating a Downtown Merchants Association would also aid in promotion and marketing and is something that could be done fairly quickly and at little to no cost, which was noted by members of the Historic Preservation Commission and its recently formed downtown committee.
Keeping its character
One of the ways to keep the character which so many people come to town for would be for the city to adopt 2009 building codes, the mindset being older building codes tend to impede redevelopment of older buildings. Creating a parking garage with public restrooms would help eliminate two major problems in the eyes of residents.
Creating entry enhancements to help better define the downtown area and its image along with the creation of mixed use (commercial/residential areas) downtown is expected to bring more people into the area. Better defining the downtown and its sphere of influence would be the job of a proposed downtown coordination team which would keep track of improvements and their timing.
All the ideas presented, including potentially provide incentives for historic preservation and restoration while allowing for alternative designs, are all things many people wanted to see.
Easier public access
Redesigning peripheral streets to become one-way along with wider sidewalks, providing more Americans with Disabilities Act improvements and cutting through traffic on median streets to allow easier pedestrian access through downtown along with the creation of exclusive and shared bike lanes are considered priorities by many community members.
As part of the city’s new Transportation Plan, creating an inner loop around the downtown area, using Alamo, Spring and Bridge streets would take truck traffic away from the square and make for easier flow for shoppers.
Making a number of downtown streets one way, including York, Dallas, Trinity, and Austin and providing more angled parking along Main Street would increase parking by as much as 30 percent.
Council was scheduled to look at the potential ideas, provide any necessary feedback before the plan goes to the Historic Preservation Commission Sept. 4. Director of Planning Craig Farmer said another large public meeting to vote on the final plan could be scheduled as early as October depending on what the committee wants to do.
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