Lewisburg Vision Plan revealed to residents
By Karen Hall
Over 100 Lewisburg residents gathered in the large meeting room at the Recreation Center for the official presentation of the Vision Plan to the community on March 13.
Richie Jones, a partner at Hodgson Douglas, the company which prepared the plan, along with The Walker Collaborative and Kennon Calhoun Workshop, presented it to the group with the help of a PowerPoint. Enlarged versions of some of the drawings in the plan were on display for people to study.
"Vision Lewisburg 2035 is a planning document originating from the desire of the City of Lewisburg to chart a bold, innovative and feasible course for the next 20 years," wrote Jones for the flyer which was handed to attendees. "The goal of this plan is to provide Lewisburg with a holistic vision of a place where people want to live, work, recreate and feel connected to; a plan which could easily translate into measurable steps for the improvement of three specific focus areas ... it is the goal of this plan to be a coherent, concise and clear road map for key future decisions."
Jones said he was thrilled by the area when he first came to Lewisburg to start this job.
"How beautiful it is coming in off the interstate," he exclaimed.
The rural character of the community and the small town values are what people told him they liked about Lewisburg, Jones went on to say, and the plan seeks to preserve this.
"That's what makes Lewisburg, Lewisburg -- your rural character and your downtown," Jones said.
Jones enjoyed his drive, but once he got here, he said he had a little trouble finding downtown, and other key places of interest, like the Rec Center. A "coherent and consistent sign package leading to key places" would solve this problem at relatively low cost, he said. A coherent marketing and branding package will help, too, and so will "gateway signage" on the roads into town.
The three focus areas of the plan were open space and parks, corridors, and downtown.
Lewisburg already exceeds the national standard for parks, except for small neighborhood parks. Expanding greenways has a positive effect everywhere, Jones said, and making streets friendly for pedestrians and cyclists is another big step in the right direction.
"You can create an urban fabric more pleasurable for the pedestrian," he said.
As for downtown, around the square, it needs to be protected, enhanced and restored. Jones noted it would never be possible to return to the way it used to be, when everyone came to the square to shop, eat and socialize, but the square could again be a destination.
"People make special trips to see the Gallatin square," Jones noted.
"It's critical you become a Main Street community," he said. "It really works!"
The Vision Plan has many recommendations and suggestions, but they don't all have to be implemented right now -- in fact, implementation stretches over the next 20+ years. Some of the beautiful ideas, like re-routing Franklin Avenue to a roundabout on 2nd Avenue North, or having Water, Haynes and College streets end at little plazas overlooking Rock Creek, may never get done.
"It's not going to happen overnight," said Jones as he concluded his presentation. "You can see the Vision Plan on the city's website next week. Thank you for having us."
Two weeks have passed since the presentation, and the Vision Plan is still not on the city's website, but City Hall sources assure the Tribune it will be there soon.
There is also a question of how Vision Plan projects will be paid for.
During a speech at the start of the meeting, Mayor Jim Bingham said, "I would support a moderate tax increase ... I don't see any alternative (to it) for moving forward."
A setback to city plans has already occurred: the Department of Transportation's Multi-Modal grant has gone to another community. Lewisburg was fairly confident of winning it for improvements to 1st Avenue North from the square to Rock Creek Park, so this is a sad blow to expectations.