Following a public comment session at City Hall, commission members gathered to discuss conceptual plans that could greatly impact Canton Street and its surroundings.
City Planner Courtney Lankford kicked off the discussion by informing the commission they could mix elements from each concept.
“It’s not concept one, black and white,” Lankford said. “You can make alterations and create some kind of hybrid.”
However, as there will be only one master plan, she said all of the elements chosen for the project have to be “intertwined to work together.”
City staff will not make recommendations on concepts, she added. Instead, public comment plus feedback from the city council and the commission will steer the final blueprints.
Commission member Alex Paulson found the plans confusing.
“I don’t get the ‘wow’ factor I guess I was looking for,” he said. “It doesn’t say ‘this is going to be a great space to be in.’”
Lankford said it is hard to see the project’s “overall vision” through the concepts, but the site plan will be clearer heading into the next phase.
Commission member Richard Hallberg said Canton Street’s alleys should be open to delivery trucks on a limited-time basis.
Most of the space, he said, should be turned over for pedestrian use, “not to haul cars.”
Beautifying the area and making the alleys “more inviting,” he said, may prompt visitors to make the trek from city hall to Canton Street.
Many of the concepts, Lankford responded, leave streets “as is” with only minor cosmetic improvements such as new streetlights.
Commission Vice Chair Judy Meer said pedestrian access is a major concern for Canton Street businesses.
“We’ve got to work together,” she said, “so that they’re convinced that what this is will do so much good for them that all these other things will just work themselves out.”
Commission Chairman Tony Landers said the project required a carefully articulated vision.
“And behind that, you need a constituency for that change,” he said.
The success of the master plan, Lankford said, largely hinges on how the city responds to parking problems.
“Unless you are able to remove the parking that’s currently there, you can’t really redesign the alleys,” she said.
Paulson also said he believes the parking situation inhibits master plan development. “These could be two amazing spaces,” he said. “If Canton Street is having to worry about 21 cars, we’ve got more problems than that.”