PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh City officials are eying Margaret Street for a makeover.
Firms C&S Companies and Barton & Loguidice recently presented the City Common Council with proposals on how to redo the downtown Plattsburgh City artery. Improvements of two connecting streets, Brinkerhoff and Court, are a consideration, as well.
"We're looking at a multi-year approach and a significant amount of public engagement to come up with an implementation plan for redesign and enhancement of these major downtown streets," Mayor Christopher Rosenquest told the Press-Republican.
"We know this needs to be done and now is the time to do it."
The stretch of Margaret Street under the microscope is between Cornelia and Broad streets.
The five blocks in the heart of downtown are lined with historic-looking, brick-and-mortar storefronts that house many ground-floor shops, restaurants and offices, as well as upper-level housing.
The thoroughfare also has direct access to two adjacent public spaces: Trinity Park and the newly-completed Betty Little Arts Park.
The section of Brinkerhoff between Beekman and Margaret streets and the section of Court Street between Beekman Street and City Hall Place are the other two roadway sections eyed for reconstruction.
Mayor Rosenquest said some state monies would be used to cover the cost of the plan, redesign and public outreach efforts anticipated for the at-hand projects.
In addition to the municipality's annual PAVE-NY Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding, the mayor said the Lake City was awarded nearly $2 million more in State Touring Routes funds, allowing it the flexibility to consider such work to the downtown roadways.
Rosenquest described those funds as a new state program wherein funds are distributed and used in a similar fashion as CHIPS money.
The mayor asked the city's Department of Public Works and Community Development Office to identify some possible engineers for the project. The city departments put forth C&S Companies and Barton & Loguidice, respectively.
GOALS AND GAMEPLAN
C&S Companies, the group behind the in-progress Cogan Avenue reconstruction, in its presentation stressed an emphasis on public outreach and community input, should it be selected, and vowed to keep ideologies, like complete streets and placemaking, at the forefront of any design plans.
"We want Margaret Street to feel like a comfortable place, a home," C&S Companies Project Manager Kelli McArdell told councilors. "A place individuals can go and stay."
Updates could include improvements to bike infrastructure, sidewalks, crosswalks and the city's outdoor seating "parklets," which allow downtown restaurants to block off roadside parking spaces for outside dining during the warmer months of the year.
"All of our restaurants that have that outside seating, that is currently a potential problem, because you're putting individuals, virtually, in a parking spot — that could be a huge liability should somebody run over onto the sidewalk or run through the opening in the jersey barriers," McArdell said.
"But, we love to sit outside when we eat, right? It's great. So it's going to have to be a nice compromise of pedestrian safety as well as having out restaurants and everybody enjoy the fresh air outside."
Though expected to be guided by public input, C&S Companies did throw out some potential Margaret Street improvement options, starting with how it could continue to function as a two-way roadway, or not. Other options included transforming the street for one-way traffic or pedestrian-only traffic, also known as a pedestrian mall.
Both choices would allow more room for bike lanes, pedestrian space and greenery, but could put pressure on nearby streets and parking, C&S Companies officials said.
A final option is a "woonerf" or a living street.
"It's a street that is shared between bicycles, pedestrians and vehicles," Todd Humphrey, C&S Companies principal in charge, explained, adding that it would be constructed to discourage traffic. But, at the same time, he continued, "you're allowing parking, you're allowing drop-offs. . . you're really taking that space and turning it over to people walking, making it more of a gathering space without having to completely re-route traffic."
The firm also listed possibilities to convert other downtown areas into pedestrian malls, like Trinity Park and the Protection Avenue alleyway, and thought softening downtown's colors and textures would go a long way, as well.
Barton & Loguidice, the city's grant writing consultant, gave a brief presentation, starting with a proposed project schedule that would begin with a kick-off meeting, should the firm be selected.
Then, the firm would conduct its existing conditions assessment, carryout public and stakeholder outreach, put together the preliminary engineering, identify the pilot project, follow back up with more public outreach, and then nail down the funding and construction schedule.
Senior Managing Engineer Dan Rourke said the firm would use various methods of public outreach, like online surveying, event-based outreach, sustained communication, on-site walking tour and stakeholder working sessions.
"Public outreach — this is our number one priority on the project," Rourke said.
The senior managing engineer leaned on the firm's past successes in other New York cities, including the cities of Geneva, Binghamton, Fayetteville and Cooperstown.
He pointed directly to an in-process bike path in Saratoga, renderings of which recently garnered positive public feedback, and a connective corridor in Syracuse.
The latter incorporates a cycle track, pocket parks, bike lanes, public art, ADA-compliant sidewalks and traffic calming measures, Rourke added.
"Everything involved in this project could be done here at the city."
City of Plattsburgh officials have yet to select a firm for the hoped reconstruction projects.
More discussion is anticipated at upcoming City Common Council sessions.
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