Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Buzz for Division Street identifies multiple ideas to revitalize this section of old Bankhead Highway

Buzz for Division Street identifies multiple ideas to revitalize this section of old Bankhead  Highway
Residential lofts, an active senior living complex, a plaza for mobile food trucks, artistic light poles and retro signs are some of the top ideas to revitalize Division Street between Cooper and Collins streets.
As part of the Discover Division effort, city planners and consultants have spent months poring over suggestions from residents and business owners to redevelop the area and encourage future growth.
Consultants said Thursday at the final public open house that they have identified 16 different project types that could succeed there.
Paris Rutherford of Catalyst Urban Development said a healthy pre-owned car business already operates along Division Street (the former U.S. 80nicknamed “Bankhead Highway”).
But he said the area also is ripe for lofts and apartments, restaurants and mixed-use developments.
Rutherford suggested that Division revitalization efforts begin by building off the current development successes along Center Street.
“Focus on Center and build out,” he advised. “It creates a core, a nucleus.”
Other ideas for the area include possibly combining some car lots into one shared-use area and including more parking for existing businesses.
The Division Corridor Strategy Project is an effort to identify action steps to support private investment in the corridor that will provide jobs, increase property values and provide a link between UTA, downtown and the entertainment district.
Rutherford said the proposal that will go to City Council later this fall is not a “streetscape plan” but suggestions for the area’s market potential.
He said the City should broker discussions between land owners and potential investors.
“The emphasis here was to make a better urban environment,” he said.
Council member Lana Wolff, who attended the last public meeting, praised the plan as “very realistic and market-driven.”
“I love it. It’s very do-able,” she said.
The effort began earlier this year with an advisory committee that analyzed conditions and met with stakeholders.
Three open houses were designed as a way for the public to mingle with city planners and consultants, keep up with project updates and share opinions.
Some resident and business owner suggestions that planners collected from the meetings include: “attract all ages”; “pedestrian-oriented”; “landscaping”; and “improve aesthetics.”
The project seeks to support Division’s historic past while keeping it commercially viable and finding new investments for the area.
A market analysis showed that the one-mile corridor between Cooper and Collins contains aging and outdated buildings that are not visually continuous and lack pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and landscaping.
Some business owners suggested that the City offer incentives to current property owners to improve landscaping and signage.
“We’ve been talking about this for 15 years,” said Walid Joulani who owns and operates several car lots in the area. “Big ideas are great but let’s get practical, too.”
The project is scheduled to be presented to work sessions of the City Council on Sept. 18 and the Planning and Zoning Committee on Sept. 19.
Planning and Zoning and City Council public hearings are expected in October with a City Council adoption scheduled for early November.
To review the entire draft proposal visit here. (City release by Laurie Fox)

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