Pilot Point Post Signal - 1st Aug, 2015A bold vision for Aubreyâ€™s Downtown
Plan envisions a changing town.
Aubreyâ€™s proposed downtown plan is an ambitious bid to showcase the cityâ€™s historical district and create a destination for local residents and visitors.
Consultants, city staff and downtown stakeholders worked for three days last week developing two proposals for the cityâ€™s core. They presented the plans at a public meeting last Thursday at City Hall. â€œOne of the things weâ€™re trying to do is maximize opportunities for private development,â€ said Ron Whitehead, who completed his tenure as Aubreyâ€™s city administrator last week.
“What weâ€™re trying to do is bring value to downtown.” The two proposals are similar. Both show new buildings extending from Commerce Street to Sherman Drive along the west side of Main Street. They would be built to complement the existing historic buildings. Overflow parking would be installed along the railroad tracks and east of South Cherry Street.
The plans are entirely conceptual and subject to change. City staff will be accepting public input before taking them before city committees and making a final submission to the council.[The plans] are pretty ambitious, and weâ€™ve got a lot of ideas that we put down on paper,â€ said Michael Huston, an independent consultant who headed up the planning efforts. You may not be able to implement everything, but wewanted to give you enough to start with and be more ambitious rather than holding back too much.
Each plan calls for a traffic circle at the intersection ofSherman Drive and Main Street that Huston said wouldhave several advantages over a stop sign or traffic light.
We heard that the intersection of Sherman and Mainwas sometimes problematic getting in and out of there,so we thought it would be a good candidate for a roundabout,â€ Huston said. They kind of slow down the traffic but keep it continuously moving.
Itâ€™s also safer than regular intersection because people arenâ€™t coming at each other at a perpendicular angle; theyâ€™re all going around in the same direction, so accidents tend to be less severe.
Huston said a roundabout would also help drivers recognize they had arrived at the cityâ€™s center. The idea needs more research to find out if there is sufficient right-ofway for the layout, he said.
There was consensusat the meeting to makdowntown easy and safe forpedestrians. Jay Narayanawith Livable Plans & Codessaid excessive space on MainStreet is underutilized. Although there is a distance of110 feet between the buildings on either side and 90feet of right-of-way, travellanes take up only 24 feet.
The remaining space could be converted to landscaped angle parking and a sidewalk area complete with street lamps and outdoor, cafÃ©-style seating, Narayana said. The street would feel narrower and slow down traffic to further encourage pedestrians. “With this additional 10 feet, you could have outdoor seating for some of the restaurants and really make it more vibrant as you walk down Main Street,â€ Narayana said.
The first plan â€” dubbed the â€œCentral Square Optionâ€ would convert the block between Commerce and Mulberry Streets into a grasscovered plaza.
We thought why donâ€™t we take one of your best assets, the park, and put it directly across from really your best asset, which is the existing historic buildings,â€ Huston said.
The bandstand in the festival grounds would be moved as well. New, threestory buildings could be built across Mulberry where the existing park is, with retail on the first floors with apartments above, Huston said.
Planners are calling the second plan the â€œPark Option.â€ It keeps the festival grounds where they are but transforms the space into a city park with a playground, splash park and terraced seating in front of the bandstand. Huston suggested covered areas around the perimeter for a farmers market.
The designs include increased parking, but Narayana said parking scarcity is a sign of a successful downtown.
We want to be careful not to overpark because anyone who has been to a great destination, you Know thereâ€™s going to be a parking problem,” Narayana said.
The City of Aubrefs Comprehensive Planning Effort
If downtown Aubrey has a parking problem, thatâ€™s actually a great thing. It means youâ€™re successful.”
The City of Aubrey has undertaken a ComprehenÂ sive Planning effort that is a proactive guide for the city’s long-term growth. One of the community’s priorities identified in this planning effort is to build on the hisÂ toric context and budding success of Aubrey’s downÂ town. Aubrey residents recÂ ognize that their downtown is an authentic place that speaks to the area’s history and needs to be preserved and enhanced as the city grows from a rural community into a suburb of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
This Downtown Master Plan establishes an integrated physical vision for Aubrey’s downtown – both its public improvements and private development potential. In addition this plan also provides the community a set of priorities and implementationÂ· tools to realize this vision. This document and the Downtown Master Plan Poster together provide a guide to the key elements of the Downtown Master Plan as proposed.
The proposed Downtown Master Plan concepts are only illustrative in nature. They are intended to depict a couple of possible ways public improvements and private redevelopment could occur based on accepted urban design principles, existing context, and community input. The goal of the illustrative plans is to provide decision makers and private ownership interests more clarity on the intent of the Downtown Master Plan recommendations.
Further, two Master Plan options are presented in addition to several elements that are common to both options. The first option moves the park from its current location south of Mulberty Street to the block north between Commerce and Mulberry. In this option, the park functions more as an active “Central Square”. The second option keeps the park at its current location and expands it to include the corner of Plum and Main Street. In this option, the park functions as a passive “Community Green”. Details of the two options are presented in this Downtown Master Plan report. Finally, this plan provides an implementation framework that will help the city with respect to prioritizing improvements, zoning, and development incentives as the downtown and the community grows and matures.
The plan recommends implementing two to three of the improvements that are common to both options and tactical in terms of addressing immediate needs, being lower in cost, and providing some much needed momentum to emerging success of downtown businesses. These are short term, and priority improvements include the shared public parking lot behind Main Street, the pedestrian paseo connecting the shared parking lot with Main Street, and small scale park improvements to the downtown park at its current location. This will provide the city with the long-term planning and fiscal capacity to undertake many of the ambitious aspects of the vision for Downtown Aubrey.