The second workshop is tonight April 28, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hickory Regional Airport. The address is 3101 9th Ave Drive NW. The Airport entrance is up Clement Blvd off of Hwy 321.
Here is an article that was posted about the notification of the meeting from the Hickory Daily Record: Help Plan Hickory's Future Growth, Development.
Here is a link to what HBC 2030 is all about.
Hope to see you there and I will do a full article on this meeting tonight
Previous HBC meetings and discussion links:
Why the original Hickory By Choice doesn't work
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 1st Meeting
Studio Cascade awarded contract at November 4, 2008 City Council meeting
Brian Frazier opened the meeting and made some general comments about the plan. Basically he made the same introductory statements that he has made in the past. You can read the introductory statement from the last workshop. It is pretty much the same as what he said tonight. He then introduced Bill Grimes and Rick Hastings. There will be an advisory committee meeting that will take place tomorrow. You can check out the city website and HBC 2030 to see what the process is all about.
Mr. Grimes mentioned the purpose of the original HBC plan. The original plan created a land use plan that was based on a cupcake type of pattern (centers). The circles that dot the map are located at the intersections of major thoroughfares. The plan also suggests the patterns that these centers should adopt as they develop. The discussion at the last workshop gave details about the HBC structure and how it might relate to today's condition.
Mr. Grimes once again went over the "Neighborhood Core" philosophy. He mentioned the concept of "Pedestrian Shed" and "Commercial Catchment Areas." He said they wanted to make sure that the concept was valid 10 years later. In the first workshop, Studio Cascade wanted people to take some time and affirm the various directives and policies that are 10 years old. The participants answered a survey about various issues to try to find a comprehensive statement of city policy that supports Hickory by Choice.
Mr Grimes mentioned that some of the comments (from the survey) added some nuance and shading to the policies that were implemented 10 years ago. Most of these comments were rooted in the current economic condition and maybe we were being a little too ambitious in that original plan and maybe we need to scale back a little on what we are expecting to do. There was also a level of environmental awareness that was keyed into the economic development perspective of the plan and how we might be able to take advantage of the opportunities available with environmentally based or Green types of Industry that can help us.
Mr. Grimes said that everything seemed to be tempered by "how do we get the over-arching aspirational policies to fit into a more realistic context for the year 2010 (and up until 2030)." To what degree will the community commit to implementing the plan as its going to be updated and actually commit to supporting the adoption of development regulations that will be consistent with that plan. Right now there is a disconnect between the comprehensive plan and the development code regulations (zoning).
We were given a packet that contained a summary of the responses to the first workshop's survey. He talked about the issues that struck Studio Cascade. The vast majority of responses were 4's and 5's. The policy context supports what was adopted. There is a supportive level of ratification to move forward and find other policies and development standards to implement the overall goal.
Transportation and infrastructure are key ingredients. Transportation system design and Land-Use design must make sense; along with a pedestrian connection, mobility, and highway capacity that will complement and support this (HBC) type of scheme. Multi-modal travel options have not been supported (thus far). A car is a vital component and should not be sacrificed as a viable transportation mode.
Housing and Land-Use were mentioned. Mixed use is an important premise to the implementation of the HBC plan. We need to make sure that we can have(support) a ground floor retail store with residential over the top. The community isn't 100% behind how to deal with the transition between mixed-use and established neighborhoods. There is an importance placed on compatibility between land uses. Uses should respect existing land uses.
How do we reconcile the survey with the concept of HBC? We have to develop policies and standards that help us to get where we desire to go. Mr. Grimes displayed plans of Davidson, NC. Davidson has seen some success in designing neighborhood cores. The mixed-use centers must be designed where thoroughfares intersect. Davidson has chosen to develop mixed-use concepts near major transportation arteries.
Hickory has to find a way to create a pattern that is adaptable enough to fit the various centers that we have. Our commercial development has taken place along corridors. This has happened naturally. There is a lot of capital invested in these corridors and investors want them to remain exactly as they already are. We have to turn these corridors into something that they presently are not. This will be a structural change.
Nodal development will have to be developed through a groundswell of support by multiple owners (in an area) or it will have to be established in areas where land ownership is concentrated in the hands of few. The centers are important and we must set them up for success. The development of the corridors have denuded the viability of centered commercial areas. We can't do both, because we will bombard the market with an amount of commercial uses that it cannot support.
Corridors weren't mentioned in the original HBC. They are real. They must be supported and redeveloped over time into linear commercial districts that support the cores or they must be involved into some other sort of use. They must be recognized and addressed in policy.
There are 15 centers established by the original plan. It will be hard to provide the support needed to all 15 of these core areas to help them do all that they need to do. How can we prioritize the centers that have the best chance to succeed. We need to identify what is on the ground today and how we can best achieve the desired ideal. Mr. Grimes says that we might be able to support 4, 5, or 6 of these cores.
The prioritized areas that we looked at tonight were Downtown and Viewmont as centers and Hwy 127n as a corridor. They have to serve a wide variety of audiences. We looked at these areas as a 1) Pedestrian/Cyclist 2) Motorist 3) Resident 4) Shop/Retail store. We ranked them 1 to 5 (5 being the best) in aspects of their viability. (This survey is online)
In our small group (our group had 3 people) discussion, we talked about the viability of this overall plan. One of our participants said that Studio Cascade is ignoring the fact that a good many people would prefer that we start over from scratch. We need to open up the process and analyze more concepts of development. Lifestyle has kept people from accepting the pedestrian mode of the neighborhood core concept. Some say that we should build the city's subsystem around a spine of public transportation. The development should be built along the public transportation nodes (almost like depots). That would make it easier for people to get around. The neighborhood core creates a feudal concept of enclaves and is going create a separation of the citizens of Hickory along socio-economic and cultural barriers.
Mr. Grimes readdressed the group and discussed how each of the 4 groups will look at the development concept from a different angle. Our group looked at Hickory By Choice from the view of the Pedestrian/Cyclist. We organized into table discussions for this exercise.
A participant (1) in our group discussed how he would travel from behind Hobby-Lobby to his job Downtown. He told us how he would maneuver down 127n, take a right at near Viewmont Square and go down North Center Street to avoid dangerous traffic conditions on 127n. Another participant (2) talked about his driving and how he avoids 127n while driving a car. He stated that the 127n corridor between Downtown and North Viewmont was a deadzone for retail because of pass through traffic. People drive the back streets and don't like to turn into businesses located along that area, because of traffic.
Participant 1 made the point that businesses that have been successful have been located at areas where it was easy to turn off of 127n. He personally doesn't want to deal with The Cook Out or Dairy Queen, because of the traffic issue. Participant 2 talked about Dead Zones and how the City has created these areas by having strong concentrations of commercial property in certain areas that cause bad traffic congestion. I mentioned that one of the major problems with 127n is traffic flow and it should be re-engineered electronically to achieve better flow.
Harry and I mentioned the issue of safety for pedestrians downtown. We had a meeting at the Tap Room on Friday night and as we were leaving, we were accosted by an individual that "needed $9 to get his stuff back." We were both driving, but imagine if we were pedestrians Downtown. That seems like a dangerous (and at the least uncomfortable) position for someone who is walking. The perception of safety is one of the main reasons why people choose to drive a car. Participant 1 said that Downtown was good for pedestrian traffic, but terrible in Viewmont.
One issue that I mentioned is the fact that if we are going to have a core built in North Viewmont, then we will eventually have to have overhead crosswalks so that people can safely get across the road. Another problem mentioned is the problem with the light at Starbuck's. It is very dangerous for pedestrians and just as bad for motorists. The final issue that was addressed by this group was to take the center of the cupcake (core) off of 127n, because of traffic and pedestrian issues.
The Pedestrian/Cyclist area - Downtown is pedestrian friendly, but you have to get there first. There has to be dense residential areas (taller buildings). Downtown needs to work on the safety issue. 127n, is ok for pedestrians, but 127n kills any opportunity to cross in Viewmont. The bold solution is to move the cupcake to one side or the other. The corridor is avoided and people prefer to walk in the neighborhoods. Pedestrian Crossovers in Viewmont might help. Bike lanes need to be designated better. Bike routes need to be designed better. Lights need to change for bikers.
Residents - Downtown needs to be more resident friendly. Neighborhoods bump up on it, but there aren't many residents downtown. There are things that are nice to buy downtown, but there is nothing that we need to buy down there. There is no grocery store or things you need to exist(live). It is a place for optional purchases. As far as Viewmont, it is resident friendly. There are all kinds of stores there. There are stores that we all shop at because of needs. People drive through the corridor to go to Viewmont. The corridor is not resident friendly directly on it, but it is on the streets behind it. This group stated that the sidewalks are not continuous and they need to be. They go from side-to-side-to-side.
Motorists - Parking is a major problem downtown. The street identification system needs to be looked at. There is good access to downtown. Perpendicular parking is a problem. The one way pairs are a problem. The traffic light system is a problem in Viewmont. There are alternate routes that can be developed. Landscaping needs to be developed on the center line. The corridor is what it is and it runs very well. We need to focus traffic back into the 127 corridor. Hickory is very motorist friendly. The east side of 127 needs better signage so that they can see what the businesses are.
Shopkeepers/Retailers - The one way pairs are hard on businesses. Reconnect Government Avenue and 1st Ave. Possibly reopen the street in front of Union Square. Need to have businesses near cars. 127n is what it is. We need to push more mixed use. The corridor needs to allow people to park in the front. Mr. Grimes stated that each parking space in front of a building, that has zero setback, translates to $100,000 in sales.
Mr. Grimes pointed out specifics about what Hickory by Choice was implemented to create. 1) Centers close to housing 2) Less Auto dependent 3) Neighborhoods be safe 4) Parking be concealed 4) Interconnected Streets 5) Informal Gathering Spaces 6) Thoroughfares and Intersections to support retail use 7) Streets are calm 8) Continuous Sidewalks 9) Scale and Retail match Identity and Place
** The next meeting in June will be about corridor development.
The Hounds Take: I think this is an excellent process, but we must realize that this is only a process. If people don't accept what is going on here, then this will all be a waste of time. We can't support certain sections of this city at the expense of other sections. As a matter of moral code and/or practicality, we cannot continue to ignore the blighted areas of Hickory. It is not viable and it is not sustainable.
Do we really want to create niche enclaves? Are we not one city. I do realize that the more affluent areas pay more property tax, but are not the citizens of these blighted areas just as much citizens as those from Northwest Hickory? It is my contention that they are.
This plan needs to be about bringing the city together and having balance. The bottom line of this plan should be based upon transportation or moving around this city. That will go a long way towards increasing the quality of life, especially when we are still so vulnerable to fuel prices. Including every quadrant and citizen in this plan will increase the likelihood that this plan will be accepted and succeed.
If we have a good portion of this city become blighted, then those accepted enclaves will have to pay more in security costs to protect their assets. You cannot expect to cordon off certain blighted areas of this city and ignore them. If you try to do that, then prepare to become a city of gated communities, walls, and private security. I hope that Hickory never comes to accept that. We need to lift the area up and not succumb to accepting Least Common Denominators.