to: Mayor and Town Council
from: W. Calvin Horton, Town Manager
subject: Streetscape Master Plan Updates
date: May 22, 2006
This report is provided in response to the recommendations presented to the Town Council on March 6, 2006 from the Streetscape Master Plan Review Committee (Attachment 1). Also attached is a Public Works Staff Report on Downtown Lighting (Attachment 2) that responds to a Council presentation on downtown lighting by Mr. Joe Capowski on March 27, 2006, and a petition to the Council on April 10, 2006 from Ms. Janet Kagan regarding a possible role for the Chapel Hill Public Arts Commission in revising the Streetscape Master Plan (Attachment 3).
We recommend adoption of Resolutions A and B. Alternatively, the Council could consider adoption of Resolutions C and/or D.
Resolution A: Resolution A would authorize use of $100,000 - $125,000 in available Streetscape bond funds to hire an urban lighting specialist and an urban designer/landscape architect to review and revise the Streetscape Lighting Plan for all areas of the Central Business District and revise the Streetscape Master Plan and develop detailed plans for future improvements in sections of downtown where Streetscape improvements have not yet been undertaken. We recommend adoption.
Resolution B: Resolution B would authorize the Town Manager to utilize $150,000 - $200,000 in available Streetscape bond funds to purchase right-of-way and construct missing sections of sidewalks on Rosemary Street. We recommend adoption.
Resolution C: Resolution C would authorize the Town Manager to develop a Request for Proposals for an urban planning and design team including an urban planner, landscape architect, and urban lighting specialist to review the Streetscape Master Plan and the Downtown Small Area Plan, and develop a new Master Plan that reconsiders planning and design issues for all sections of the Central Business District. We believe that Streetscape bond funds could not be used for most of this expense because it would not be directly related to construction. We estimate costs to the General Fund would be in the range $150,000 - $250,000.
Resolution D: Resolution D would authorize the Town Manager to develop working drawings for Streetscape improvements adjacent to University Square, discuss plans with property owners and merchants, and begin construction in the summer of 2006 utilizing an estimated $280,000 of the available Streetscape bond funds.
On March 6, 2006 the Council received an interim report from the Streetscape Master Plan Review Committee and adopted a Resolution directing the Town Manager to prepare a subsequent report in response to the recommendations submitted by the Streetscape Master Plan Review Committee. On March 27, 2006 the Council received a presentation on downtown lighting by Mr. Joe Capowski. On April 10, 2006 the Council received a petition from Ms. Janet Kagan regarding a possible role for the Chapel Hill Public Arts Commission in revising the Streetscape Master Plan.
The Streetscape Master Plan Review Committee’s interim report included seven recommendations for possible additions or revisions to the 1993 Streetscape Master Plan as well as eight prioritized recommendations for expenditures of the $500,000 in available 2003 bond funds to implement the Master Plan. All of the Committee’s recommendations can be found in Attachment 1. We believe that there are two critical recommendations regarding future Streetscape planning, and two addressing what Streetscape improvements could be implemented during this planning process, and these four recommendations are specifically addressed here. We believe that resolutions to the other Committee recommendations could evolve from a future planning process.
Committee Recommendations for Additions or Revisions to the Current Master Plan:
Staff Response to the Committee’s Master Planning Recommendations:
If the Council desires to proceed with revisions to the Streetscape Master Plan, we believe that the essential issue to be considered involves determining the process to be used to make the desired changes. We believe that there are essentially two options the Council could consider to proceed with the revision process as reflected in Resolutions A and C:
Option 1 – Contracting with an Urban Lighting Specialist and an Urban Designer/Landscape Architect (Resolution A):
The Streetscape Master Plan Review Committee discussed the issue of downtown lighting at length. During these discussions, some Committee members indicated that the issue was primarily a need to complete installation of custom lighting as currently designed and to work with private property owners to increase lighting on their properties. Others indicated that there could be value in reviewing the current lighting plan prior to proceeding with future lighting improvements. Attachment 2 is a Public Works Staff Report on Downtown Lighting that provides background information about the existing Streetscape Lighting Plan and discussion about the recommendations made by Mr. Joe Capowski in his Council presentation on March 27, 2006.
We believe that since the Streetscape Lighting Plan was developed in 1993, changing conditions downtown and changing expectations on the part of downtown users suggest that revisions to the lighting plan should be studied. We believe that this would best be accomplished by contracting with an urban lighting specialist to review the plan and work with Duke Power Company and the North Carolina Department of Transportation to develop specific revisions to the plan, that once implemented, could improve downtown safety, comfort and ambiance.
Similarly, expectations for downtown development have changed significantly since the Streetscape Master Plan was developed, specifically along West Rosemary Street. As recommended by the Streetscape Master Plan Review Committee, we believe that there is a need to revise elements of the existing Master Plan to reflect these changing conditions. The Committee’s interim report provided some specific recommendations regarding building setbacks and Streetscape improvements along Rosemary Street that the staff could use to develop recommended Master Plan revisions for the Council’s future consideration. The Committee also provided input that could be used by the staff to revise the Master Plan’s recommendations regarding sidewalk design and site furnishings to reflect the unique character of both West Franklin and Rosemary Streets. We believe, however, that this could be done best by contracting with an urban designer/landscape architect to review and revise the Master Plan for those sections of downtown where conditions are changing and Streetscape improvements have yet to be undertaken. The scope of work for this contract could involve developing detailed design recommendations for public Streetscape improvements to Rosemary Street, West Franklin Street and the intervening cross-streets that address future building setbacks, sidewalk design, plantings and site amenities that reflect the changing conditions in these areas.
We believe that available Streetscape bonds funds could be used to cover the estimated $100,000 - $125,000 cost of both an urban lighting specialist and an urban designer/landscape architect. We believe this work could be completed in six to nine months.
Resolution A would authorize the Town Manager to proceed with this work.
Option 2 – Preparing a Request for Proposals for the Services of an Urban Planning and Design Team (Resolution C):
If the Council desires to prepare a new Streetscape Master Plan that reconsiders planning and design issues for all sections of the downtown we believe that this would best be accomplished by contracting with an urban planning and design team. This design team could include an urban planner, a landscape architect, an urban lighting specialist and possibly other design professionals. The scope of work for this study could involve a review of the Downtown Small Area Plan, to assure that the newly evolving Master Plan would fully consider potential improvements on private as well as public downtown properties, and could consider issues such as the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s future maintenance role on Franklin Street and potential changes to traffic and parking patterns that may provide for future Streetscape opportunities. This planning process could also revisit areas where Streetscape improvements have already been undertaken to determine if reconstructed changes in these areas should be considered. We believe that the cost of this work could be from $150,000 - $250,000 and that it could take 12 – 18 months to complete.
We believe that a comprehensive study of this type, that involves issues beyond those specifically needed to design and construct improvements within the public right-of-way, would need to be paid for by the General Fund or the Downtown District Fund.
Resolution C would authorize the Town Manager to proceed with this work. We recommend Resolution A, instead.
Structure of the Master Plan Revision Process:
The structure of the Master Plan review process may depend in part on whether the Council desires to proceed with directed revisions to the Streetscape Master Plan as provided for in Resolution A, or to undertake the development of a new Master Plan as provided for in Resolution C. We believe that in either case there could be value in having a Council-designated advisory committee specifically involved in the review of the Master Plan revision process.
On April 10, Ms. Janet Kagan recommended that the Chapel Hill Public Arts Commission oversee the process of drafting a Request for Proposals, soliciting proposals from professionals identified by the Commission, guiding the evaluation of the proposals, and actively participating in the design of the plan. We do not recommend that the Public Arts Commission oversee the Master Plan revision process. If the Council adopts either Resolution A or C, we believe the process could better be initiated and directed by the Town Manager with assistance from an advisory committee designated by the Council specifically to undertake this task once design consultants have been selected. We believe that, as was the case with the Streetscape Master Plan Review Committee, the Council may want to include members of the Public Arts Commission and other Town advisory boards and commissions in a future Streetscape Master Plan advisory board.
Committee Recommendations for Utilizing 2003 Bond Funds to Implement the Master Plan:
The Committee recommended the following projects for consideration with the existing $500,000 of Streetscape bond funds:
Staff Response Regarding Recommendations for Implementing the Master Plan:
Right-of-Way Acquisition and Sidewalk Construction on Rosemary Street:
Over the last several years Town staff has contacted the owners of properties along Rosemary Street where insufficient right-of-way exists and sidewalk sections have yet to be constructed. In a number of cases property owners have provided the Town with pedestrian access easements and in these locations the missing sidewalk sections have been constructed. We believe that the owners of properties needed to construct the remaining missing sidewalk sections will not provide the Town with pedestrian easements. We believe that in these locations it will be necessary for the Town to get appraisals of the value of the land needed to construct the sidewalk and negotiate the purchase of additional right-of-way at fair market value. We believe that in some locations the use of eminent domain may be required to acquire the necessary right-of-way.
We agree with the recommendation of the Streetscape Master Plan Review Committee that construction of at least a minimal five-foot-wide sidewalk on both sides of the entire length of Rosemary Street is important to enhance pedestrian safety. We also agree that wider sidewalk sections would be preferable but recommend that sidewalk widening be deferred until future redevelopment on affected adjacent properties.
We recommend that available Streetscape bond funds be used to purchase right-of-way and construct missing sidewalk sections on both sides of the entire length of Rosemary Street. We believe that the cost of right-of-way acquisition and sidewalk construction could be from $150,000 - $200,000, depending on updated land appraisals.
Resolution B would authorize the Town Manager to proceed with this work.
Streetscape Improvements Adjacent to University Square:
The Streetscape Master Plan Review Committee recommends that Streetscape improvements be constructed adjacent to University Square prior to redevelopment of Lot 5. A plan showing these proposed improvements is included in Attachment 4. We agree with the Committee’s concerns about the poor condition of the existing sidewalk adjacent to University Square and the value of reconstructing it in anticipation of increased pedestrian volumes during construction on Lot 5 but recommend that this project be deferred until the Master Plan revision process is completed.
Resolution D would authorize the Town Manager to proceed with development of working drawings for Streetscape improvements beginning on the south side of the 100 block of West Franklin Street 275 feet west of the intersection with Columbia Street extending to Mallette Street, discuss plans with property owners and merchants, and begin construction during the summer of 2006 utilizing an estimated $280,000 of the available Streetscape bond funds. We do not recommend adoption.
ADDITIONAL MATERIALS (provided 5/19/2006)