Downtown GR Is On A Roll
New residential developments, restaurants, bars and retailers have become part of the downtown scene and the area now hosts more special events than ever before.
Downtown is a lot more attractive these days, too, thanks in large part to the maintenance and beautification efforts of the Downtown Alliance. Maintenance and beautification have been the
Funding for the
Nearly two-thirds of the district’s annual budget — which was $472,000 this year — goes to maintenance and beautification activities, Chairman Kurt Hassberger said Wednesday at the
“We believe the downtown has never been cleaner than it has been in the last couple of years,” said Sharon Evoy, executive director of the
On the beautification side, planter boxes installed last year provided
In fact, some property owners outside the district are now “clamoring” to have the improvement district expanded so they can be a part of it, Hassberger said. Some have suggested expanding it across the river to include
There are two myths about downtown that former mayor John Logie said he would like to dispel. Myth No.1 is that there is no parking downtown. Myth No. 2 is that downtown isn’t safe.
“The reality is that there’s a ton of parking in downtown and some of it is free if you just know how to access it,” Logie said. As to the safety myth, he pointed out that in 2002 there were six homicides in all of
James Schultz, Ph.D., director of
“Now, five years later, when we do our student satisfaction surveys, those items are very low on the list of priorities and concerns that our students have,” he said. “We’ve had no security incidents to speak of, and parking, thanks to the parking commission, is very accommodating to us. We’re very satisfied being here.”
One of the
“We’re trying to get the word out around the community because when we finally get somebody to come downtown, they look around and ask, ‘When did this happen?”’
Now the group is out to brand downtown with an identity that sticks. The Alliance is developing a downtown brand and marketing plan with the help of Hanon McKendry Inc., and is ramping up downtown’s exposure with a new Web site that will give folks access to daily information on events and attractions at restaurants and bars, and at cultural, sporting and entertainment venues, said Ray Kisor, Alliance vice chairman.
He said the interest in branding downtown came on the heels of the Arts & Entertainment Strategy analysis of last year, which suggested downtown needed to show some “attitude,” develop a consistent, branded focus and play up its growing reputation as an arts and entertainment destination.
In addition, the
The idea isn’t to start over again, but to add to what has already been done, said Peter Pollack of Pollack Design Associates. He noted that change in an urban setting has to be done incrementally.
“Making the urban dimensions feel smaller is a really important part of how people walk and see and experience. It’s all about experience and coming back because the experience was positive,” Pollack said.
He presented suggestions for a design framework for downtown beautification built around four “character” areas: the downtown activity center, which is “urban plaza” in overall character; the institutional and governmental campuses that are “park-like” in character; and the Heartside Neighborhood area, which conveys “a city setting with a personal feel.”; and the river’s edge, which is “shoreline” in character.