By Vicki Ikeogu
A shifting of ideas and vision for the future of Monticello’s downtown area was approved through the city’s Economic Development Authority at its Wednesday, Aug. 9 meeting.
For nearly a year, the city in conjunction with consulting firm Cunningham Group, has worked to revamp the 2010 city comprehensive plan. More specifically, the city is focused on ideas outlining how the downtown area should be developed in the next five to 10 years.
In the recent completion of the small area study for the downtown area, Cunningham Group consultant Andrew Dresdner called the new redesign a “visionary plan on how downtown can thrive.”
“The plan is intended to attract a certain type of development to downtown,” Dresdner said. “This is a particular plan with a particular point of view. Hopefully this plan helps Monticello reclaim its downtown.”
Dresdner said the redesigned downtown plan is focused less on a suburban-style development and more on creating a more walkable environment.
“Back in 2010, (the comprehensive plan) had up front and center a shopping focus,” Dresdner said. “This plan was not fully realized.”
Changing demographics, a focus on in-town living and a decline in brick-and-mortar retail outlets nationwide have led Dresdner and his team to determine similar effects are on the horizon for Monticello.
The new plan for Monticello’s downtown has four components: shifting the center of Monticello from Pine Street and Broadway Street to Walnut Street and Broadway Street; reuniting the community’s engagement with the river; improving Pine Street; and infilling current lots within the downtown area with new businesses.
“Ultimately, we are creating a downtown that’s less about shopping and more about the experience,” Dresdner said. “We are building off of what people love and value in the community.”
A major portion of the small area development study focused on the relocation of the core downtown area. It is a movement that would preserve Broadway Street and maintain Pine Street as the regional hub for business activity. In addition, it would help further connect the downtown area to the Mississippi River.
“This will create a stronger, more public realm for people to move around downtown by car, by bike and by foot,” Dresdner said.
The small area study revamped its original outlook on downtown parking concerns expressed by residents and city officials.
“Strategically, this plan talks about maximizing existing parking,” Dresdner said.
According to the redesign, the plan would stress the focus of a “park once” mentality with visitors to the downtown area parking and walking to various destinations along sidewalks and other trails. The plan also stresses shared parking between businesses and ample signage and wayfinding guides for visitors.
Future strategies pertaining to parking include developing a pilot shared parking program between private businesses and the city and expanding parking on certain city streets.
With the potential for an increase in residential building development in the downtown core, Dresdner said incorporating underground parking for those choosing to live downtown would be essential.
Overall, Dresdner said the new plan, if implemented would leverage all the assets of the community and contribute to its economic vitality in the future.
“Downtown is for everyone,” he said. “It is the heart of the community.”
EDA commissioners voted to adopt the small area study plan. Commissioner Steve Johnson abstained from the vote.
The plan will be brought to the planning commission and the city council in September.
Vicki Ikeogu is a freelance reporter for the Monticello Times.