Ideas, concerns shared for downtown plans |

Ideas, concerns shared for downtown plans

Jill Lufrano

Carson City redevelopment officials may start looking at a pilot program next month to allow retail and neighborhood businesses to mix with residences on some streets in the city’s historic downtown as a way to energize the economy, officials said Wednesday.

Members of the Redevelopment Authority Citizen’s Committee received several positive comments from a room packed with residents and business owners who were ready to talk about how the city might use zoning to encourage more people to live, walk and visit downtown.

While some had serious concerns about pedestrian safety, parking and preserving historic values, others wanted officials to start working on any plan that might start the wheels turning.

One business owner told members of the Redevelopment Authority Citizen’s Committee he wanted them to “just do it.” Supervisor and committee Chairwoman Robin Williamson said she plans to.

“I’m not going to do this for three years,” Williamson said. “We’re going to have some kind of draft of some kind of ‘try this.'”

Economic development and redevelopment manager for the city, Joe McCarthy, said after hearing comments from Wednesday’s group, he planned to introduce a pilot project to the city’s Redevelopment Authority Citizen’s Committee next month.

The plan might include allowing special neighborhood development like corner grocery stores or multi-story retail buildings with stores on the first floors and condos or apartments on top floors, to be developed on certain west-side streets. McCarthy suggested including West Robinson, West Washington and King streets in the pilot program.

“By the next meeting, we have to start putting some flesh on the bone,” McCarthy said.

West Robinson Street homeowner and longtime downtown resident Peggy Twedt said she supports the idea.

“The idea of mixed uses, I think, makes a lot of sense as long as in doing so you don’t discourage the residential use or diminish the historic nature of the district,” Twedt said.

Twedt, like many others who have commented about the plans, said she is concerned about parking in the area. Putting concrete over lawns in some areas detracts from the beauty of the district, though some businesses have found discreet ways to hide parking in back, she said.

Others voiced concerns about more people parking on and overtaking side streets on the west side with few other alternatives in the area. City officials are still trying to find a place to build an affordable parking garage, Williamson said. They may end up partnering with the state or businesses.

“I can’t think of anything more vicious to destroy (the historic nature of) Carson City than the automobile,” said Jane Chesney. “If you can’t preserve that district from being harmful to tourism, let’s not do anything.”

City engineering staff has started work on a circulation study of downtown, to identify parking and street issues. With the completion of the Carson City Freeway due in 2010, officials are planning to be ready when traffic through downtown changes, McCarthy said.

Barbershop owner and artist Adam Baker encouraged city officials to look at ways to make downtown safer for pedestrians and bicyclists as a way to encourage people to visit more often. Poor lighting on crosswalks across Carson Street and few areas for bikes concerned him with recent fatalities, he said.

The city plans to meet “as many times as necessary” to get feedback from the community before settling on a plan for the downtown, McCarthy said. He encourages anyone with ideas or concerns to call him at City Hall at 887-2101, ext. 1208, or e-mail him at jmccarthy@ci.