The Stuart Town Council heard an update on the Downtown Revitalization Project from Hill Studio at its Feb. 15 meeting.
David Hill, the owner of the firm, said the plan includes several capital projects to make downtown better.
“The first piece of this is the Farmers’ Market bandshell, a potential playground, and better handicapped accessible parking,” he said, adding the stage could be improved.
“One thing that I think could make this better is to go ahead and build a timber frame addition to the facility that will be a little bit more permanent looking. It would allow you to hang lights and things like that, and musicians wouldn’t have to run away if it started raining. It’d be dry,” he said.
The timber frame addition would also allow a few more farmer booths to be added to the market.
Hill said opening the parking lot at the former Pannill facility would allow bigger crowds at the market, “because it’s right there next to it, and it’s the same height so that people could walk right over.”
Adding a playground area for youngsters is another potential idea, as is the creation of a mega deck that would be on the backside of most downtown buildings and connect them together.
“If you could work on the backs of these buildings, you could actually make them better for access, for both handicapped folks and also for fire as a second way out,” Hill said. “If you could get them to work together, you may be able to use them for an outdoor entertainment space.”
Hill said the town would need agreement from as many building owners as possible for the project to be a viable option.
Making the downtown area more walkable is another component of downtown revitalization. Hill said this involves the town working with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), which is currently redoing the T.J. George Bridge.
“If we get our plan in front of VDOT, we can ask them to implement as much of this as they feel comfortable doing at the same time,” he said.
Hill said the idea is to make the area more grid-like to create more of a town-square area.
“It also gets 78 organized parking spaces near the front doors of all the buildings, which is really important, and a useful green piece in the middle that you can use for events,” he said.
Another part of the idea is to work with VDOT as it rebuilds the bridge to try and get the organization to incorporate some of the decorative streetlights and potentially a welcome to downtown sign on the bridge.
Hill noted the addition of townhouses also is included in the plan. The homes would be situated along Chestnut Avenue.
Town Manager Bryce Simmons said townhomes would be considered in a future phase of development. He added the housing idea was included in the plan due to the current housing situation and because the town owns property near the Farmers’ Market. But Simmons said a construction project of that magnitude would be considered in a future phase.
The list of initial improvements includes the deck project, the implementation of some signage and the town’s new brand, as well as façade improvements for a number of the properties in the downtown district, Simmons said.
Hill said the cost to implement the initial initiatives is $1,037,471.45.
The town will work with the West Piedmont Planning District Commission (WPPDC) to go after the funds from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
Simmons said members of the town council will consider approval of the plan, with some slight revisions, at its next meeting.
In other matters, council members:
*Heard from Patrick County Tourism/Recreation Coordinator James Houchins about the 250 Commission and the Moonshine Heritage Trail.
*Approved the meeting minutes.
*Discussed and paid the bills.
*Heard an update on public works projects.
*Heard an update on the Planning Commission meeting and its recommendations.
*Created a selection committee to make recommendations for the consultant for the pressure zone study. The committee includes Dave Hoback and Mayor Ray Weiland.
*Approved allowing the selection committee to decide which company is selected for the pressure zone study.
*Created a budget committee.
*Approved going forward with the Assistant Town Manager position and discussed its job description.
*Discussed town policies.