The plan for the future of downtown Brentwood moved forward this week with an eye to both past and present.
In the third and final workshop on the specifics of what the revitalized streetscape in the city's core commercial area will look like, nearly two dozen merchants and residents weighed in on parking, sidewalk widths, landscaping and monument signage Monday evening in the City Council chambers.
The streetscape plan, part of the comprehensive improvements that include the new Civic Center, is moving forward with $5 million in cash already accumulated through the city's Redevelopment District. The balance of the Civic Center project, including a new city hall, community center, parking structure and overhauled City Park, is also in the planning stages, although decisions on when and if all those items will be built await the completion of construction documents and a detailed financial analysis not expected until the end of the year at the earliest.
Downtown is an absolute priority, said City Councilman Erick Stonebarger, who attended Monday's meeting. The council's most outspoken advocate of proceeding with caution on the bulk of the Civic Center Project because of the current economic climate, Stonebarger said he would even support completing the entire, $10 million streetscape project rather than proceeding with just the cash on hand.
I like the whole Civic Center project, but (City Hall and the majority of the project) would benefit the downtown only indirectly, he said. The streetscape, he said, will directly benefit the effort to keep the downtown viable and help attract private investment, and sitting on the money already accumulated for that purpose doesn't make sense. It needs to be spent, he said.
The streetscape plan includes wider sidewalks to accommodate outdoor dining, art shows and other pedestrian-friendly activity. Parking along Oak and First streets could go from diagonal to parallel to gain the needed room, on either one or both sides of the streets. Median landscaping along Second Street and Brentwood Boulevard was also favored by workshop participants, as were more and bigger trees, and benches and bulb-outs at intersections to encourage pedestrians to linger and interact.
Downtown Brentwood entry monuments, with a modern trellis design based on one that used to grace City Park, will be located on Second and Oak streets.
Converting all the diagonal parking currently in the area to parallel could result in the loss of about 30 spaces, said Redevelopment District Manager Gina Rozenski. The five city-owned parking lots in the downtown currently have between 65 and 95 unused spots at various times of the day, she added, which would offset the losses.
Kerri Marvel, owner of the GooseBerry Fool restaurant on Oak Street, said that considering the total volume of vehicles a vibrant downtown would attract, the loss of the few spaces on the street would be insignificant compared to the benefit the more friendly ambience and opportunity for other uses that wider sidewalks would provide.
The preferences outlined in the workshops, along with related traffic analysis, will be compiled and brought to the City Council, which could make the final decisions by the end of the year, Rozenski said. Although the ultimate plan will include the entire downtown area, the first $5 million phase would focus on Oak, First and Chestnut streets, and median improvements to Second Street and Brentwood Boulevard.
Meanwhile, work will continue on $3.8 million in water and sewer improvements now underway and needed to support growth in the area, including the new Civic Center buildings. Stonebarger said that although the Civic Center buildings might be years away, it makes sense to lay down the utilities they will eventually need while the streetscape improvements are being done.
We don't want to tear things up twice, he said.