Friday, December 2, 2016

DAB saw Plans for Union at Commercial Yesterday - and More

Shoot. Here's another meeting of interest that got lost in the events of the past week or so.

The Downtown Advisory Board met yesterday the 1st, and there are several things to note from the agenda. Several are pleasant, even exciting. (Agenda and meeting packet here.)

At the top of the list is a current rendering finally of the project for a safe crossing on Commercial at Union Street.

From December 1st DAB meeting

A much earlier concept from 2013 or so
For comparison, here's an earlier concept from a few years back, and it is interesting to note the edits, which are mostly deletions:
  • No southbound bike lane on Commercial Street, either north or south of Union
  • Sharrows only on east side of Union Street, angle parking remains
  • A standard bike lane westbound on Union, west of Commercial 
  • The corners on the west side of the intersection are more rounded and less squared off, which will make zoomy turns easier for those in cars
For east-west travel, the current design does not meet a standard for a "family-friendly" bikeway on Union Street. Kids and adults who bike infrequently will not likely feel comfortable on Union Street yet.

The design helps some, but not all people who bike
At the same time, this will be a very substantial improvement for more confident cyclists. And it will be a great boon for those traveling on foot.

New view: Looking west from midblock
Also important is a request for $749,999 in urban renewal subsidy for the "flatiron" Park Front building on the former Boise property. This is a kind of mate for the $749,999 subsidy for the nursing home project. Staff recommended it:
Total project costs are estimated to be $8.9 M, which is an estimated $10.87 leverage of private investment for every $1 of Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal funds....

The FY 2016-17 Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal Budget has an allocation $4M for Opportunity Purchases. On October 24, 2016 , the Agency Board approved an Opportunity Grant to PDQ Investments in the amount of $740,000, leaving a remaining balance of $3.26M. This project aligns with the following RDURA and Downtown Strategic Action Plan objectives to 1) removal of blight; 2) leverage of dollars; 3) connectivity to downtown; 4) increased tax increment funds; and 4) increased vibrancy.
Here's the part that I don't get. This project has been in the works for a while. Is the subsidy really necessary in order for the project to happen? Or is this just slush now for the developers?

The project for the apartments at 245 Court Street asked for its subsidy much earlier in the process, and on the face of it that is evidence that the incentive is more necessary in order for the project to happen at all.

In their application the Park Front developers reference increasing construction costs as well as environmental abatement work because of the paper mill's pollution. So maybe the incentive really is necessary now.

The projects are similarly sized, and it's not like this new request is clearly inconsistent with the way we are currently using urban renewal subsidy. But the timing of the request looks a little suspect. Hopefully there was some appropriate questioning at the DAB meeting.

Penny's Plaza and the alleyway is charmless and desolate
The DAB is also asking for $50,000 for two murals on the north and south side of the alley between Liberty and Commercial on Chemeketa Street. One would be on the north side of the elevator shaft in the plaza between the Parkade and Penney's, the other behind the Urban Alley Restaurant.

Sounds nice!

I think this was the last public concept for State Street
From the June 13th, 2013 Open House
Consistent with Mayor-elect Bennett's interest in working on converting State Street to two-way functioning, the DAB has also budgeted $19,000 for DKS to gather more data for firming some cost estimates for a conversion from Liberty to Church Streets.

Even with the compromise of door-zone bike lanes shown here, two-way functioning on State Street would just be huge.

There's also budget for
Consulting costs currently being scoped to place permanent structures on the plaza located north of the Transit Mall on Chemeketa Street between Church/High for a market and public activities.
That also sounds good!

All in all that's a substantial number of positive developments.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

It is nice to see something positive happening downtown with street scaping and bike lanes. I personally think it is going to take a lot to get people comfortable riding bikes downtown, but it is a step in the right direction.

Two-way State Street....that would be so interesting. I've lived here most all my life and longed for its return! I hate wasting gas going around extra blocks in order to get where I need to go!

Michael Livingston said...

Perhaps the most significant observation here is this one: "For east-west travel, the current design does not meet a standard for a 'family-friendly' bikeway on Union Street. Kids and adults who bike infrequently will not likely feel comfortable on Union Street yet." The City's TSP says that this section of Union is supposed to be a "family-friendly' bikeway.