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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Vision for Monett revealed at public meeting

Friday, April 10, 2009

Above is a graphic interpretation of the Drury University architecture students' idea of how to create a gateway to Monett's downtown by turning the intersection of Central and Broadway into a turnabout where the arrows come together. The colored area at lower right shows the concept of transforming Front Street south of Kelly Creek into a nine-block-long center city park.
Ideas for reshaping Monett's downtown and how to address flooding were unveiled at the second public meeting hosted by Drury University's Center for Community Studies on Monday night. Input was sought on long-range proposals to help shape the final report, which is due in June.

The community visioning project is a joint undertaking of Drury architecture students, the University of Missouri Extension Service, the City of Monett, the Monett Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Betterment Group. The previous meeting at the City Park Casino, held in March, provided opportunity for members of the public to offer their opinion on a variety of topics to help students rank the ideas they were shaping in their Monett proposal.

This week the framework of the proposal was unveiled. Students Ben Pruett and Ann Pinkham made an initial Power Points presentation, which allowed those attending the meeting to under stand the ideas visually. Those attending then had a chance to study the graphic panels used as illustrations, after which reactions were exchanged.

Another public meeting is planned at the City Park Casino for 6 p.m. on Monday, May 11.

In approaching what people want in their downtown, Pinkham said the number one quality sought was walkability, a destination with a casual atmosphere. Other preferred qualities included natural, communal, nostalgic and convenient.

Establishing a downtown park

With the high value placed on Monett's park system, the Drury students grasped the idea of combining a downtown park with the destination as a commercial center. A large downtown park could provide another center of community activity, combined with the idea of walking around the commercial district.

Looking at available or potentially available space, the students targeted Front Street as their park area. They proposed closing the street entirely, taking out all the buildings south of Kelly Creek and a number of others east of Central and making a nine-block long green space they called Heritage Park. A land berm would help separate the park from adjacent railroad property.

Moreover, the Drury plan combined the park concept with ideas for flood control. The proposal called for lowering the park below the current street level. Thus the park could become submersible under flood conditions and serve as a second channel for flood water, much wider than Kelly Creek and in places equally deep. The park would divert water that would otherwise overflow to Broadway.

Several other flood control measures are part of the bigger Drury plan, not all of which was detailed in the presentation. A variety of ways to hold storm water back from pouring into Monett all at once have been worked into the concept. Even the park idea had unusual features to accommodate floodability, such as a pavilion that would float. A land bank was proposed at the north of town and a lake at the golf course to retain some of the storm water flow.

Moving downtown parking

To make downtown more walkable, the Drury students proposed adjusting and relocating existing parking. This idea raised the most concern from merchants and city leaders attending the meeting.

The students proposed widening current sidewalks on Broadway to add trees and green space, expanding the feel of a park. The current angled parking would be switched to parallel parking, cutting the number of spaces by around half.

John Bruner cautioned against concentrating parking on the edges of the business district. Such a move, he felt, would only force more businesses to relocate toward the parking.

Drury Professor Jay Garrott said that over a 13-block area, the proposal would result in more available parking than exists today, though it would be located off Broadway, particularly on Bond Street. Had the class been able to get aerial photographs, Garrott said the distance from the proposed parking areas may be a block, but it would be less distance than people walk through the Walmart parking lot now.

Under the proposal, streets feeding off Broadway to the south would remain but would not be open to vehicle traffic. Side streets to the north of Broadway would be open and provide key parking space.

"We'll use what is not being used now," presenter Pruett said.

Jeff Barber, housing and environmental design specialist for the Extension Service, observed that the parking shift may encourage the development of rear entrances to businesses. The presence of the park could further stimulate pedestrian migration through the park and into the business district.

Identifying downtown

Identifying the business district has been a major weakness in Monett's present arrangement that the Drury students defined early in the process. In this week's meeting, they proposed several solutions. For example, erecting monuments on Highway 60 that serve as signs with arrows could show motorists the way toward the business district to the north.

On Broadway itself, the students offered several ideas for identifying the edges of the business district. At Thirteenth Street at the north end of the Centennial Overpass bridge, for example, they suggested another monument, such as a three-story high clock tower, as a gateway marker.

At the west end, at Broadway and Central, cars can stay on Highway 37 and miss downtown without making visual contact. To establish more of a gateway, the students propose turning the junction of Central and Broadway into a roundabout circle drive. This turnabout with a round center would clarify the location as a significant juncture for motorists, opening the way into the business district as equally significant as following Highway 37 to the north.

Other ideas were offered to better define the quality of the downtown. For example, the sentiment on pleasing appearances shared at the last session supported the idea of taking the steel covering off facades on buildings in the 300 block of East Broadway and returning to a more historic look.

Students suggested defining intersections with colored bricks, some possibly raised higher than the roadway. The bump, Pinkham said, would remind motorists that the area was shared with pedestrians and could deter speeding.

Other ideas were suggested about enhancing appearance. The look of downtown buildings could be made more uniform by adding a second story fašade to the Modern Variety store, maintaining a consistent roofline.

Pruett talked about establishing a cultural district at the east end of Broadway, creating an atmosphere conducive to cultural events similar to the historic Walnut Street district east of downtown Springfield. Strategic placement of artwork and banners could further help to re-identify and relabel the downtown.

Next step in plan development

Garrott said the students' report should be viewed as a visioning tool. The advisory committee meeting with the students and the community as a whole would have to accept or reject the recommendations. Implementing the ideas could take decades. A Drury class planted the seed ideas for the revitalization of the Springfield downtown in 1987, and that process is still underway.

Because of the extended time frame, no funding estimates were offered. Barber observed that Springfield has used a community improvement district to pay for improvements with an additional sales tax. Tax increment financing also offers a way to commit future sales tax revenue to a newly assumed debt.

"Renewal of the downtown can help renew or repair the interconnectivity of a community," Garrott said. "It gives people a reason to go and a place to go to. We hope the downtown can become a comfortable place to live. It's not for everyone. It is an opportunity. With renewal, we can see the rejuvenation of some of the neighborhood qualities north of downtown."

Chamber board member Mike Garrett, who was instrumental in arranging the collaboration with Drury, commented, "I think the students have done a wonderful job of thinking outside the box. No one has thought of removing Front Street. You are giving us some creative ideas."

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