By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – A long range plan for revitalizing the downtown streetscape was presented last Friday morning at the Water Valley Main Street Association office.
The presentation was the result of a week-long study sponsored by Mississippi Main Street and conducted by Tom McGilloway and Nathan Scott, landscape architects with Mahan Rykiel Associates of Baltimore, Md.
The work is somewhat of a continuation of the Water Valley Charrette that took place in January 2009, according to Mickey Howley, WVMSA Director.
There have been downtown plans before for Water Valley. One was commissioned in 1976 that involved facade renovations and downtown green spaces. It was never acted upon.
One of the big differences between this study and previous plans is this one will have costs budgets and recommendations for partnerships and potential funding sources.
“We like to look at streetscape as not just beautification. It really goes hand-in-hand with your economic goals of creating a more viably downtown, McGilloway told the approximately 30 people present for the presentation.
“We’re complimenting and encouraging private investment,” he added, referring to facade work already underway on Main Street.
McGilloway said that when he and Scott talked with members of the community, most expressed a desire to see shade downtown along with improved sidewalks and lighting. But, the plan had to be realistic with consideration for the financial aspects of how to make it happen.
It’s important to have a comfortable environment to encourage people to be in the downtown, he added
“There’s a great sense of pride in this community. That really came out loud and clear,” McGilloway said.
“You’ve already done some wonderful things in the downtown; the pavilion, the clock tower, the wonderful city park. Really great assets right along Main Street.”
The streetscape project encompasses an area of Main Street stretching from Young Street to Central Street. The highest priority zone, according to McGilloway’s research, is between Blackmur Drive and Martin Street.
Among the recommendations generated by the study:
• Plant canopy trees along Main Street to provide shade without blocking the signage or storefronts.
• Mark crosswalks so downtown will feel like a pedestrian environment that cars are able to move through instead of the other way around.
• Install bump-outs, also called curb extensions, to narrow portions of the street for traffic calming and reducing the pedestrian crossing distance at intersections.
• Add ornamental street lights to bring lighting down closer to the pedestrian level.
• Provide way finding by building on signage examples from the Charrette.
• Incorporate railings in areas where there are uneven sidewalks and handicap ramps
• Turn the parking area at the end of Railroad Park back into park space.
• Remove the turn lane on Wood Street at Main and bring out the park so there is more green space around the clock.
• Change some of the pull-in parking spaces around Railroad Park to parallel spaces to make the park more pedestrian friendly.
• Add green space and/or tree and planters at the Martin Street intersection with Main Street and also in the city-owned parking lot by the Herald office.
• Plant larger trees along the sidewalk in front of the Big Yank building to frame the vista coming into downtown.
• Install an island with a planter in the intersection at Main and Central Streets.
At the conclusion of the presentation, Mayor Larry Hart praised the study and emphasized that it is a long-range program designed to be done in phases. “It’s not going to happen quick. It’s going to be up to government and the organizations to go out and generate the funds to deal with each phase.”
“I am excited about it for the City’s standpoint as something we really need to do if we want to have a town here in the future,” Hart said. “I am excited about this even if we start by putting a couple of trees in.”