The phase one planning process of the Falls City downtown revitalization project is complete. The process was officially completed Monday night when the Falls City, City Council, unanimously approved the plan developed by RDG Planning and Design. Approval came following a presentation from Main Street Director Cassey Whalen.
Earlier Monday, Marty Shukert and Cory Scott of RDG Planning presented their plan to about 20 people at the Chamber of Commerce office.
Shukert explained that the design is a comprehensive, long-term plan, that won’t be completed all at once, but over several years. The plan was developed fairly quickly, over two-and-a-half months, with public participation in the form of an on-line survey, focus groups, and a series of design workshops.
Key elements include retaining a combination of retail and office space; creating a public gathering space; addressing parking issues; and improving the streetscape. Shukert said an analysis has determined there’s a market for between 4,000 and 13,000 square feet of new retail space in downtown Falls City.
The plan proposes traffic flow changes in downtown Falls City, which Shukert says will be cheaper to operate and will be better for business. The cost savings would come by replacing the old out-dated traffic lights on Stone Street with four-way stop signs.
The plan calls for replacing the four-lane traffic on Harlan Street with a three-lane configuration with a center left turn lane. Other elements include lowering curb height, creating a public space around the Courthouse, better tying Pamida on the south end and Prichard Auditorium better into the downtown area, and posting more visible way-finding signs. It would create three “districts” in downtown Falls City – a hotel/entertainment district to the north, the commercial core, and an arts and cultural district to the south end. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cassey Whalen says she’s excited about the plan. The City Council approved the plan Monday after a public hearing.
The next step in the process is to apply for phase two funding of up to $350,000. Whalen says that will allow implementation of the plan to begin. Shukert recommended starting by making streetscape improvements. He called the Falls City plan one of the most exciting plans he’s developed.