Downtown Taylor changes are sparking conversation as a 2015 plan starts to become reality.
Second Street, between Main and Talbot Streets, was reduced to one westbound lane last week with the installation of parklets and streetscaping on the north side of the roadway. Parking was also restriped to angled parking adjacent to the McCrory-Timmerman building.
As citizens have started to notice the changes, locals have voiced their support or frustration. City officials have tried to answer concerns about the changes, such as safety.
“Safety was the paramount concern related to the streetscape modifications on Second Street. The changes made were to enhance pedestrian safety,” said Mayor Brandt Rydell. “One of the consequences of Taylor’s revitalization efforts has been an increase in people walking around downtown. For years, many motorists had been conditioned to have little to no expectation of or regard for pedestrians.”
One aspect of the changes comes from parklets, which are areas licensed for use by a business or property owner to create an outdoor area for patrons and the public. Parklets are placed on part of a public street’s right-of-way, typically parking spaces.
The root of other noticeable Second Street adjustments come from the Downtown Master Plan adopted in 2015.
“The Downtown Master Plan includes a lot of recommendations for how to revitalize downtown,” said Assistant City Manager Tom Yantis during a May city council meeting, “but one of the key pieces of it is the physical improvements to the streets and the streetscapes in downtown.”
A section in the plan is called Signature Street Opportunities, which include Second Street.
“What the master plan calls for is reducing the number of travel lanes on Second Street from current four to three which would be one in each direction with a turn lane,” said Yantis, “and then also reconfiguring the parking layout on the north side of Second Street from parallel parking to angled parking.”
City staff reportedly talked with downtown business and property owners about alternatives to making the improvements. Doug Moss, owner of 2nd and Main Lofts, then worked with the city on sketching possible layouts since he was figuring out possible improvements on the east side of Main Street as well. They came up with a demonstration project of the Downtown Master Plan with the preliminary improvements to Second Street.
City staff recommended using temporary, inexpensive materials for the demonstration project. Yantis said in May that the cost was in range of about $5,000. Funds for the project were expected to come from a 2013 bond sale allocated for downtown street improvements
“Our downtown is the living room of our community,” said Rydell. “The more attractive and inviting we can make it, the more it can become a bustling and vibrant sector, the better off Taylor will be. Creating a safer and more engaging environment for pedestrians is a critical piece of the puzzle.”
The parklet ordinance is set to expire Sept. 29 but could be subject to extension. As for changes related to the Downtown Master Plan, feedback from staff and the public will be taken into consideration before making any changes permanent. In the meantime, the mayor has noticed local frustration.
“We’ll need to give people time to adapt to it and get a better understanding of how it all works,” said Rydell. “I understand these changes may make drivers a little more uncomfortable navigating that intersection and block. That discomfort reduces driving speed and makes drivers more mindful of their surroundings, specifically the existence of pedestrians.”
To see talk and questions from the Taylor City Council on this project, watch their discussion from the May 28 meeting below or here.