Council adopts downtown/waterfront strategy|Keeping committee active to move plantoward implementation

Published 11:03 pm Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Contributing Editor

The visualization and reinvestment strategy to improve Washington’s downtown and waterfront areas was adopted unanimously by the City Council on Monday.
After adopting the strategy, the council charged Citizens for Revitalization committee with shepherding the strategy toward implementation. Mayor Pro Tempore Doug Mercer recommended the existing committee, which has about 22 members, remain in place until next summer, when its membership would be reduced.
Mercer praised the strategy as the product of two polarized groups that came together for the common good of the city. He said the two groups “melded into a very workable organization.” Mercer made the motion to adopt the plan.
Councilman Archie Jennings said the committee, when it comes to the strategy, should “act as (its) champion and maintain the momentum” it has picked up during the development process that resulted in the plan.
Before the council adopted the plan, it observed a presentation concerning the strategy. That presentation was made by Scott Lagueux, a senior associate with LandDesign, the firm hired to develop the strategy.
The strategy calls for creating a downtown harbor district that includes activity centers and districts along with a diversity of uses while maintaining the public’s access to the Pamlico River.
The plan calls for “investments” to improve the quality of life in Washington, with those investments being made by the public sector, the private sector and public-private partnerships.
Prominent components of the proposed strategy include a waterfront hotel, pavilions for public or private functions, small parks and green spaces and buildings for economic-development uses such as restaurants, a museum, a ship’s store and similar retail uses. It also calls for a “festival park” just west of the N.C. Estuarium, a public pier and a gateway to the downtown-waterfront area where Main Street, Stewart Parkway and Gladden Street intersect.
Under the proposal, Stewart Parkway would be narrowed, providing more green space along the waterfront promenade. Lagueux referred to the modified parkway as Stewart Lane. The strategy also calls for extending Water Street from Market Street toward Respess Street.
Lagueux said the proposal’s components should be done in phases during a 20-year period.
The strategy addresses these key points:
• Finding ways to link Main Street to the Pamlico River.
• Public and private parking areas for expanded commercial activity.
• Create an opportunity for up to $90 million in new “tax-paying” construction and adaptive reuse of existing buildings.
• A premier space such as a performance venue for public use and assembly.
• Promote downtown as the city’s central business district.
• Develop a vehicle/pedestrian traffic circulation plan that connects people with various locations within the downtown/waterfront area.
• Establish a vision and reinvestment strategy that brands Washington’s downtown as a “central business district on the river.”
For additional coverage of the council’s meeting see future editions of the Washington Daily News.