(Photo by Michelle Felter, Staff)
SIKESTON -- The dream for Downtown Sikeston is beginning to take shape and become a real vision for those involved in the area's revitalization efforts.
Tuesday night, conceptual designs for streetscape improvements, Legion Square, the Depot Commons and gateway monuments and wayfinding stations were presented in a public forum at the Sikeston Public Library.
Fourteen posters illustrating the current design and proposed changes were presented and explained by Russ Volmert, association director with PGAV Urban Consulting in St. Louis. The firm was hired by the state and the city to come up with plans to revitalize the downtown area as part of Downtown Revitalization Economic Assistance for Missouri Initiative, or DREAM.
Landscape architects with PGAV took input received from focus groups, downtown retailers, property owners and area residents into account when preparing the final drawings. Also taken into account was feedback from drawings of ideas presented at a special meeting in mid-October.
"And a lot of them just tallied down what they liked," he said. "Not a lot of them wrote down comments."
He and Lowes agreed there is a lot more interest in the designs, as they have heard much discussion about them
The plans for Legion Square, which Volmert dubbed the "front door" to downtown, include air grade fountains, a cotton boll or other icon unique to Sikeston, a plaza, band stand, and other furnishings. At the Depot Commons, which Volmert described as "dominated by pavement" the conceptual design included plans to add a lawn, plaza and icon to the north of the building, but still allow two-way traffic.
In both, the north side along front street, would be utilized for the Farmer's Market or other programming events, such as bands or festivals.
The gateway monuments and wayfinding monuments, which will point visitors to downtown landmarks, are crucial, said Volmert. "Folks aren't going to use your downtown if they can't figure it out," he said.
He reminded people the designs are not set in stone. "These are concepts ... these are initial ideas," said Volmert. "There is a long way to go to get into bricks and mortar."
And the work has really already begun. "We've got the basic framework going in place right now," Lowes agreed, referring to the sidewalk improvements, uncovering of brick streets and installation of period lighting.
The designs are quite detailed, including site furnishings such as trash cans and bicycle racks, pavement designs, sculptures and plants.
But there is a catch. Although the revitalization was spurred by the DREAM Initiative, the city and other organizations are expected to pick up the tab for the work. And with current economic conditions, there isn't a lot of extra that can be used.
But one thing PGAV has urged organizers to do is keep the faith. "This is a long-term plan and they want to help us find a way to make it happen," said Lowes. "Right now, we just have to keep the excitement and enthusiasm and know the potential is there. We just have to work as a community to make it all happen."
Volmert also noted there are some funding programs, although difficult to come by.
There are internal city discussions on how to make it all possible, said Lowes. Once HMDG and other officials know what funding is available, they'll look again at citizen input to learn what the greatest needs are to choose priorities.
"This is not just of downtown property owners or businesses," she said. "We need to consider the whole city."
There is no specific timeline yet -- especially with the question of where the money will come -- but work will likely be done in phases. Lowes said it is a goal to have most of the improvements in place for Sikeston's yearlong sesquicentennial celebration in 2010.
Volmert urged that, if that is what officials want, they need to get moving. "In the design world, that's just around the corner," he said.
For those interested in getting a closer look at the designs presented by PGAV, the firm left posters of the designs, which will be displayed at a location yet to be determined. Organizers said they are looking for more citizen input before they begin implementing the designs.