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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Students offer bold new vision for downtown

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Drury University students who engaged in the community visioning process for Monett and their teachers gathered at the conclusion of Tuesday's presentation at the Monett City Park Casino. Students, front row from left, are: Ben Pruitt, Jared Hoffpaiur and Robert Deal. Second row, at center: Ann Pinkham, Phillip Luu and Chelsea Millsap. Dr. Jay Garrott, head of the Center for Community Studies and Architectural Studies for Drury, at rear left, and Jeff Barber, housing and environmental design specialist for the University of Missouri Extension Service, second from right at rear, led the Monett study. The project was also sponsored by the city of Monett, represented by City Administrator Dennis Pyle, rear right; the Monett Chamber of Commerce, represented by Chamber Executive Director Suzy McElmurry, second from left, and the Monett Downtown Betterment Group. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]]
Strengthening the sense of place, linking parts of town and revitalization all served as themes for the Drury University architecture students who made their final presentation on studying Monett this week.

The visioning process served as a studio project for students in Drury's Center for Community Studies and Architecture Studies, led by Dr. Jay Garrott. Architecture specialist Jeff Barber from the University of Missouri Extension Service brought additional expertise to the table. Collaborating in the effort was the City of Monett, the Monett Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Betterment Group.

Tuesday's meeting at the City Park Casino was the final in a series with the Drury students. Discussion about the ideas and what to do next will be up to the advisory committee of Monett residents and business leaders who contributed to early sessions with the students. City Administrator Dennis Pyle invited anyone interested in participating in the process to contact him about future meetings.

In making the presentation, student Robert Deal reviewed ideas previously introduced, offered some new recommendations and the elements of the students' vision into a cohesive package.

Creating a downtown look

Overall, Deal said Monett's downtown has interesting architecture and a historic feel, which could be enhanced through several fundamentally simple steps. Building owners need to be encouraged to take down metal siding from the 1970s to bring back the original brick facades, Deal said.

"If the look of the buildings was unified, it would add charisma and character to downtown," Deal said.

The Drury students proposed a variety of ways to enhance the downtown area generally. Deal said they wanted to encourage walkability and making the walk itself more enjoyable. Adding pocket parks, green spaces and trees near curbs would soften the concrete and asphalt terrain. Raised brick crosswalks over the street would add another visual element as well as slowing traffic, thus encouraging walking. "Way finding signs" could be posted along the street, guiding visitors to shops and businesses.

Parking could be altered to enhance the walking experience. Deal offered charts that suggested angle parking could be switched to parallel parking without reducing access. Using side streets and new parking areas off Broadway, Deal said the city could gain 94 parking places on the east side of Broadway, 244 places in the center, and more than 100 on the west.

"People would not be forced to walk any further than they would from the middle of the Wal-Mart parking lot to get a gallon of milk," Deal said.

Front Street park to stop flooding

Making the downtown inviting for business also meant dealing with the problem of flooding. The students developed the idea of converting Front Street into a floodable green space as a way to divert water on Kelly Creek off of Broadway. Front Street could be developed into a center city park, across an area that would be excavated down to the level of the Kelly Creek channel and wider.

"The park is a flood negation tool," Dr. Garrott said. "The park is there for that reason. It would allow water to spread out and slow down, versus being flushed through town like a fire hose."

Establishing a park then provided other options. A recreational space, enhancing the idea of walking downtown, fit into the theme of making Monett "a city of parks," Garrott said. A farmers market and an amphitheater could be added to provide a center for activities, offering a unifying physical space that would pull together both ends of Broadway and tie in with the downtown business district.

"If people are there [at the park], they will be more likely to spend money and enjoy the downtown," Deal said.

To take flood prevention further, Deal said other steps would be needed. According to numbers from the Army Corps of Engineers, the amount of water flowing through Monett during peak flooding reaches a volume of 60,000 gallons a second at 10th Street.

The flow increases to 144,000 gallons of water per second at Clear Creek at Highway 60, where all the tributaries merge. The volume is equivalent to dumping an Olympic-sized swimming pool of 660,000 gallons of water through the channel every five seconds.

Deal suggested establishing large retention ponds on the east side of town to hold back 2.4 million gallons, or four Olympic-sized pools. To the south, he proposed widening the storm water channel across South Park, using a city plan to establish a lake by hole number five on the municipal golf course. Deal also called for adding four ponds in the vicinity that would hold up to 1.5 million gallons of water temporarily, to drain at a controlled rate over time.

Downtown additions

Other ideas for downtown called for additions. Loft apartment space, for example, could establish residents who would populate Broadway after business hours. A vertical monument at the east end of Broadway and a roundabout driving circle at Central and Broadway could serve as gateway markers for the district in between them.

Existing buildings could have new uses. Deal suggested turning the old Ramey's store on West Broadway into a kind of wellness center adjacent to the park. The old Olympia Foundry, at the east end of the proposed park, could become a multi-purpose building for social gatherings.

"Monett is the All-American Midwestern small town," Deal said. "The people are friendly, willing to give their views. They want to be helpful. Monett has a strong economic base and cultural diversity. The town's character is something that could be expanded upon and marketed."

Audience reaction

Audience comments about the Drury recommendations were positive. Sharon Garrett, from the Downtown Betterment Group, said many of the ideas proposed were not envisioned previously.

"We got our money's worth," she said.

Advancing the suggestions will now be up to Monett's residents, Dr. Garrott said. "You've got to keep it going," Garrott said.

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