The Downtown Bend Business Association on Wednesday officially unveiled new details on a plan to turn Minnesota Avenue between Bond and Wall streets into a pedestrian-only promenade.
Mindy Aisling, Executive Director with the DBBA, presented the plan to the Bend City Council Wednesday night, sharing their findings from two years of studying the plan.
Aisling said the DBBA recommends funding a “comprehensive planning effort to develop a future vision for Downtown Bend,” which includes the Minnesota Ave. project as well as connecting downtown with the Bend Central District and adding bike and pedestrian access.
According to Wednesday afternoon’s statement, the DBBA Board of Directors created a committee, hired SZABO Landscape Architecture to design renderings, research promenade history and talk with peer cities that have developed similar successful promenades.
The DBBA then brought that information to a meeting with Minnesota Ave. businesses and building owners to get their feedback, Aisling said.
“We appreciate the thoughtfulness and insight that our stakeholders have supplied,” Mindy Aisling, Executive Director of the DBBA said in a press release. “And all of it lines up with the data we have collected from our research and conversations with peer cities. It is clear that the development of public space, such as a pedestrian promenade, takes significant research and development and ongoing sustainable funding sources.”
The proposal also calls for new parking facilities, more public art and more.
Additionally, the agency will ask the City Council to commit to partnering with the DBBA to prioritize building public restrooms in the downtown core – a necessary first step to be able to accommodate more people.
Aisling told councilors that stakeholders said downtown public restrooms were a top priority for the project and for downtown in general.
Renderings of the project show a tree-lined promenade with abundant seating areas in front of the restaurants and businesses that currently make up Minnesota Ave.
As Aisling outlined the project, she talked about all the opportunities and challenges, but hoped the city would get on board with the project.
She said the plaza could be an economic driver and enhance the vibe downtown.
“They create this culture that’s a little bit slower where people are spending more time downtown…they pop into one extra store, they gaze into a window,” she said. “And I love the idea of slowing traffic down in downtown and having people stroll a little bit more. It’s such a beautiful experience.”
At the City Council meeting Wednesday night, councilor Barb Campbell raised concerns about parking throughout the downtown area.
Downtown has about 2,500 total spaces; 1,800 of which are “on-street parking” stalls.
Minnesota Ave. has about 20 parking stalls along both sides of the street, but six of those currently are already out of service due to the new outdoor dining “parklets” that have extended into the street.
Businesses have had mixed opinions on the idea – some are wholeheartedly for it, saying it will only enhance the vibe of downtown and attract more foot traffic outside their doorsteps.
Others, like Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe, aren’t thrilled saying the plan could spell doom for his little shop.
Mayor Sally Russel told Central Oregon Daily News this week that it was too early in the process to form any opinions about the plan.
More information on this project can be found on the DBBA’s website, www.downtownbend.org.
The new website includes testimonials – and concerns – and gives the public a form to complete to offer its feedback.
Chris Piper, a former Bend City Councilor who helped draft plans for the current restaurant “parklets” that line Minnesota Ave. now, supports the idea.
“This project will provide the much-needed investment and improvement to the heart of Bend’s Downtown, creating and sustaining jobs, tourism and public safety which is a trifecta not only for downtown but the entire Bend community,” Piper said on the DBBA’s website. “This promenade will increase the amount of public pedestrian space in Bend’s Downtown Core and become a destination for both local Bendites and tourists to the area. I look forward to lending my support helping pursue this vision, and I stand ready to help.”