After almost a year of working with downtown businesses and property owners, the city of Gillette is coming close to forming its direction for the 2014 Gillette Avenue reconstruction project.
The focus of Monday’s downtown meeting was public spaces, where the city hoped to gain some direction on how the downtown representatives believe the city should incorporate that into the overall plan.
One suggestion that gained support from the group was to block traffic from entering Third Street from Gillette Avenue east and west to the alleyways.
Another potential idea is to extend that pedestrian street to Warren Avenue on the west side and Kendrick Avenue to the east, leaving the alleys open. If that were to happen, Gillette Avenue also would be left open, creating a feel similar to that of Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colo.
“I personally think it would be a great thing. The biggest issue would be someone would need to travel two blocks,” said Jamie Tarver, building owner.
Third Street isn’t a real through street when compared to Second and Fourth streets, and it cuts right through what is seen as the heart of the downtown area. It would create a destination in the downtown that people would recognize as a public area set aside for small events and gatherings, Tarver added. That is important because it attracts people to the downtown.
A designated area also wouldn’t deter traffic from Gillette Avenue, which is a plus for businesses.
“In lieu of shutting Gillette Avenue down having it a big, open walk-able space, that’s a nice alternative,” Tarver said.
That location also keeps Gillette Avenue from having to shut down because of a downtown event since there would already be an area designated for that purpose, said building owner Ron Carlson.
If it’s a larger event that needs more space, then Gillette Avenue may need to be shut down, but for more events that are small, the public area would be sufficient, Tarver added.
Sheridan has a similar setup, which is often used to host a Farmer’s Market, one woman said.
The topography of the street also lends itself to some interesting designs, particularly the hill from Warren Avenue to Gillette Avenue.
“There’s a nice slope to this hill that you could do some interesting tiers on it if you closed it,” city spokesman Joe Lunne said. “You could have a performance area where musicians could just go out and play throughout the day.”
One of the options that the city is toying with is building a shelter structure that could be used for outdoor events, such as concerts. It borrowed some ideas from surrounding communities, including Rapid City’s downtown area.
“I do really like what Rapid City has done in that their area draws people down there,” added building owner Lou Gaspers.
Both sides of Gillette Avenue could feature vegetation, planters, fountains, the tiers on the western side and more, Tarver said.
“The options for that are almost endless,” she said.
The nice part of the Third Street closure is that people still could drive all the way through on Gillette Avenue and an event might catch their eyes, enticing them to stop, said John Cosner, vice president of First National Bank.
“That’s a pretty good gathering area if you could bring people in,” Cosner said.
That being said, some details still need to be worked out in regard to the alleyways to ensure that delivery trucks can get through them without a problem. The alleys now are 20 feet wide.
Parking garage still in the works
Even though a parking garage is not in the reconstruction plan, the city still is trying to get feedback on the best possible location for a potential parking structure so that space can be set aside.
It narrowed locations down to three potential sites:
The city suggested that its preferred location would be the garage east of Gillette Avenue because it would allow for more parking spaces and is more centrally located. That garage would accommodate up to 85 spaces per level, while the other two would allow for only 70 space and 36 spaces, respectively.
The group was split on the options, some wanting a garage on either side, some preferring the western side and some not liking any of the options. But a narrow majority voted that they preferred the city’s suggestion of the garage east of Gillette Avenue.
Most of the roughly 20 downtown representatives present still support the suggested one-way traffic on Gillette Avenue. About half of the group voted for the city to continue investigating options of creating a pedestrian area on Third Street.
The city will take that information and continue to hash through the details before its next meeting with the downtown representatives in August. All of the information collected then will go to a consultant to start the downtown design project, City Administrator Carter Napier said.
The city hopes to start advertising for a consultant in the coming weeks and submit a contract to the City Council for its consideration by the end of August.
That portion of the project will cost about $30,000, which will be paid for by a matching grant from the Wyoming Business Council.