Downtown committee prioritizes needs for cityBy Larry Blaskey
Solving the city’s parking woes, rehabilitation of buildings downtown and developing a signature event for Douglas were the three primary goals set on Thursday during the Downtown Revitalization Planning Workshop.
Approximately 20 people attended the two-hour meeting and workshop.
After and brief introduction and review of the materials by the University of Arizona Planning Degree program, attendees priortized general needs for the community, and then split up into three discussion groups to come up with short term ideas to help revitalize downtown.
The area of Douglas under discussion stretches from 8th to 14th streets and from F Avenue to Pan American.
In addition to the need for more parking, the group noted the need for additional signage to direct visitors to parking areas in the area located behind the Gadsden Hotel.
Community Development Director Chuck Ebner said he did not believe the new signage would be be a problem and it is something they could be taken care of right away.
The problem is that the parking area is hidden by buildings and many visitors may not easily be able to find it. Signage will be placed at each end of Pan American, on G Avenue at on the blocks where the lot is located.
There was also discussion of additional parking, but that was more of a long-term goal.
Rehabilitation of buildings includes turning the old Phelps Dodge Mercantile Building on G Avenue into office and retail space. Douglas Economic Development Director Victor Gonzalez also said the city is working to see if funding is available to turn some vacant second stories on G Avenue into apartments.
While events are held in Douglas, the city does not have a signature event, said Lawana Diffie of Two Flags Computers.
Willcox has Rex Allen Days, other communities have their signature event, but Douglas really doesn’t have an event to call their own, she said.
According to the executive summary of the project: “The revitalization of downtown has the potential to significantly enhance economic development and the quality of live in Douglas, and therefore has been deemed a priority by City of Douglas staff. The Downtown Douglas Revitalization Plan begins with an inventory of the existing characteristics of the local and regional setting; and it then outlines goals, objectives and strategies for downtown revitalization. The plan also identifies organizational approaches, and funding resources for implementation of the plan.
“The goals of the plan are presented in three categories: Economic Revitalization, Connectivity and Heritage. These categories were developed to encompass the key components of creating a vital downtown: residential and commercial investment; pedestrian friendly, easily accessible, inviting public spaces; and an emphasis on the history, cultural attractions and unique regional setting around which a distinct downtown identity then can be crafted.
“The Economic Revitalization section focuses on strategies top promote economic development downtown, with an emphasis on the development of a vital local business community as well as potential housing and mixed-use projects …This section also presents a variety of approaches to regulate parking downtown as an increasing number of people are drawn there; many of these recommendations were informed by comments from current Douglas residents and business owners. Finally, the plan acknowledges the need for the creation of public space downtown and describes the several plans for civic plaza…
“The strategies outlined in the Connectivity section promote pedestrian, bicycle and automobile access to and within downtown through enhanced signage and transportation infrastructure of the current informal pedestrian path that leads from the border with Mexico to downtown is recommended…This section also addresses the improvement and maintenance of streetscape elements in order to create inviting, walkable downtown public spaces. An inviting streetscape encourages people to visit downtown not only for retail opportunities, but also for recreational or leisure activities. Streetscape design includes safety improvements, beatification, additional public facilities, such as restrooms and suggestions for environmentally sustainable design elements.
“The History and Tourism section focuses on developing and enhancing tourist attractions to draw people to Douglas…Strategies for promoting history and tourism in Douglas include instructions for developing a program to preserve and interpret historic attractions…Describes the process for developing tourism partnerships and opportunities for advertising Downtown Douglas as a destination.
“Downtown Douglas contains many assets that represent significant potential for revitalization of the downtown area into an economically vital, pedestrian-focused, unique public space. The goals in this plan have been developed with careful attention to Douglas’ unique setting and circumstances, and given hard work and involvement of all of the stakeholders, are realistically achievable. The resources most essential to revitalizing Downtown Douglas already exists: an active local government and a committed, core group of citizens who are striving to make their community a better place to live.”