City gathers input for phase 2 streetscape development

Published 9:48 am Friday, November 10, 2023

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By Ellen Brabo, For Washington Daily News

The City of Washington held its first public input meeting for Phase 2 of the Streetscape Development in Historic Downtown on Nov. 8, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Washington Civic Center. The meeting, served as a baseline to begin gathering ideas and opinions from residents and stakeholders. The event marked the initial step in the much-anticipated Phase 2 after the completion of Phase 1, which focused on the improvements made to Main Street.

During the meeting, attendees were presented with visual mockups of ideas by Allison Platt, Managing Partner at Regeneration by Design, a firm based in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Platt, who also led the design concepts for Phase 1, emphasized the challenge of visualizing the possibilities, noting, “You can’t create room where there is none.”

Platt’s team proposed expanding Main Street one block east to Bonner Street and two blocks west to Bridge Street. Concepts for developing Market Street to complement Main Street, improvements around City Hall, and enhancements to alleyways, 2nd Street, Respess Street, and Gladden Street were presented. The potential addition of bike paths was discussed, aligning with the concept of “complete streets,” which aim to provide safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities.

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Residents were given three options to consider for the Market Street Study Area: maintaining existing sidewalks and configuration, widening sidewalks from 10 ft. to 14 ft. and removing parking on one side, or maintaining 10-foot sidewalks while removing parking on one side to accommodate a two-way bicycle path. After public input and discussions, it was clear a fourth consideration should be made – 12-foot sidewalks with parking on both sides and no designated bicycle path.

Concerns raised by residents included the need for a pedestrian-friendly downtown environment and improvements to alleyways. Additionally, residents expressed worries about the preservation of mature trees on Market Street.

The proposed Phase 2 improvements also included considerations for City Hall, with options for adding handicap access via a ramp or lift to the front entrance and designated handicap parking. Platt presented various design concepts, incorporating brickwork design and coloration choices. Residents will be offered the opportunity to choose from existing options or alternative samples during the next public input meeting.

For Main Street between Bridge Street and Gladden, options included enhancing the existing plan, narrowing lanes with wider sidewalks and reduced parking, or creating bump outs for trees with parking available on one side. Residents in the area expressed concerns about the removal of parking on the north side, particularly for those without driveways.

Jonathan Russell, City Manager for the City of Washington, emphasized that the meeting was a preliminary step to generate discussion and ideas.

“The main emphasis was to get people talking about the project, and I think we achieved that,” Russell stated.

This meeting marked the first of six anticipated gatherings over the next two years. Residents interested in attending future meetings can find information on the City of Washington’s Facebook page @CityOfWashingtonNC. The city also plans to create a digital survey published via social media to gather additional responses from the community.