North Main Corridor Planning
The North Main Corridor Mobility Study has been finalized!
The North Main Corridor Mobility Study has been updated based on feedback received during the final public comment period. A summary of the Study's recommendations and a copy of the entire Study is available below.
The draft Study was included in the meeting packet for the City Council Study Session on June 23, 2015 and the public comment period was open through July 17, 2015.
You can participate in the conversation on Virtual City Hall.
In addition to accepting online comments, City staff hosted a public meeting on Monday, July 13 at 5:30 PM at the City Library. This presentation (PDF) was shown to those in attendance. Also, comments were collected and questions answered at that meeting.
Despite its importance to our community, the North Main corridor has never had an area plan prepared or completed for it. Existing development and the use of public space along the corridor is auto-centric and outdated. The design and function of the corridor does not reflect contemporary preferences or meet current or future needs of the City.
To begin addressing these realities, staff proposes to coordinate a multi-phase approach to creating a comprehensive North Main Corridor Redevelopment Plan. There are a number initiatives currently in process that can be effectively coordinated to produce an all-inclusive plan for the corridor, with the goal of affecting tangible physical improvements to the area. Two crucial aspects of this initiative are appropriately timing these efforts and ensuring communication across departments and agencies.
While it may be ideal to launch a single process to address transportation, land use, financing, public involvement, and the other features needed for a full-scale corridor plan, the budget for that type of effort would be significant and the timeline could be lengthy. By setting up a phased process, leveraging existing resources, working collaboratively, and coordinating with CDOT projects, staff feels that the end goal can be accomplished with lower financial commitment. Additionally, this project will serve as a model for a lower-cost, efficient process to complete integrated transportation and land use assessments of other districts within the City. Staff presented the process outlined below to City Council at the March 24 Study Session and also to a meeting of the City's Board and Commission members on April 29. The presentation had two parts. An overview of the proposed planning process and a presentation of possible public financing options. Copies of the presentations can be downloaded by clicking the links.
Past Efforts (Phase One)
A significant amount of work has been done at the macro-level to better understand the community's desires related to transportation options, land use, and the form that new development along North Main will take. The Multi-Modal Transportation Master Plan and the new Land Use and Development Code represent the biggest pieces of this on-going effort to ensure that our community maintains its status as a highly functional and aesthetically pleasing place to live, work, and play. Council has also undertaken an in-depth goal-setting process to direct the City organization's efforts. Council Goal 4 states, "Envision Durango's Sense of Place by creating character districts, promoting responsible land use planning, and maintaining the community's sense of identity." Council Goal 1, objective 3 states, "Promote Community Sustainability through Fiscal, Organizational, and Environmental Resiliency; Provide a safe environment and encourage responsible stewardship of natural and cultural resources." This initiative is specifically designed to accomplish these goals.
In addition, the City has worked effectively with CDOT on highway projects in our community. All of these past efforts constitute a strong foundation upon which the more specific projects described below can build upon. Staff sees this past work as Phase One of this multi-phase process to create an integrated corridor-specific redevelopment plan.
Near-Term Initiatives (Phase Two)
In January, the City was notified that our request for technical assistance through the Sonoran Institute's New Mobility West program had been accepted. This program has limited funding and is focused on transportation and mobility. It will serve as a great first phase and stepping stone towards achieving the all-encompassing redevelopment plan. The process undertaken through the New Mobility West program will be focused on transportation aspects of the corridor and improvements which can be done in the public realm. It will consider how redevelopment may impact transportation, but it will not have details about land use, design, or redevelopment of private property. More information about the Mobility Plan process can be found here.
In addition to the mobility planning effort, Community Development staff have been preparing for a Character Assessment to better understand the existing conditions and the land use aspects of the corridor that make it unique and/or inhibit redevelopment. This proposed Character Assessment will provide detailed information on the current state of this highly visible and busy, but aging, corridor. The focus will be on land uses, site characteristics, and the building stock. Staff has already begun analyzing County Assessor records and contacting business owners, specifically motel operators, to better understand how land and structures are currently used. Staff has also been approached by land owners and prospective buyers about possible redevelopment scenarios, so we have a good sense of the challenges to redevelopment in the area.
These two efforts, the North Main Mobility Plan (funded by New Mobility West) and the North Main Character Assessment (completed with existing staff and resources), will constitute Phase Two of the process and will form the basis for the third phase of North Main corridor planning.
Longer-Term Initiatives (Phase Three)
The Mobility Plan and the Character Assessment will set the stage for updated, focused policies and initiatives to encourage appropriate redevelopment, preserve the quality of adjacent residential neighborhoods, improve the function of the corridor, and generate interest in the area. The two documents will be designed to fit together seamlessly. Staff will use this information to launch a more involved and detailed public process about the community's vision and desires for the future of the North Main corridor.
This pubic process will result in specific design and land use policies, strategies, and criteria, which can be incorporated into City standards to guide future development proposals. The public process will also help to create an identity for the corridor and could lead to district branding campaigns to create a sense of cohesiveness throughout the corridor. The results of the public process, policy proposals, and branding ideas will be combined with the Mobility Plan and Character Assessment to create a comprehensive North Main Corridor Redevelopment Plan.
This public process, visioning, and effort to integrate the transportation and land use elements of the process may require outside assistance from professionals with experience in integrated corridor planning and visualization of redevelopment scenarios. If such services are deemed necessary, staff will approach Council for a supplemental allocation to secure the necessary services.
Municipal Funding Mechanisms
In addition to outlining the impetus behind moving forward with the Mobility Plan and Character Assessment for the North Main Corridor, staff will also provide Council with an overview of the various mechanisms available to municipal governments to finance public improvements. The five most common types of entities used by local governments to finance public improvements are: Special Districts, General Improvement Districts, Business Improvement Districts, Downtown Development Authorities, and Urban Renewal Authorities. Staff will provide an overview of these options and a more in-depth analysis relative to Downtown Development Authorities and Urban Renewal Authorities. As part of this process, staff will outline the purpose, organization, powers and methods of financing specific to these two options.
Although this is not intended to be an exhaustive discussion, it is intended to lay the ground work and help frame future discussion which will occur during phase three of the North Main Corridor planning effort.
Municipal funding mechanisms are designed to enhance the vitality of downtown corridors and other commercial areas where market conditions may prohibit financially feasible private redevelopment. They are tools which allow municipal governments to create partnerships with private entities such as developers to fill community voids. They can be used to stimulate mixed use development, make infill redevelopment more financially feasible, and address housing issues.
These mechanisms allow municipalities to make improvements to benefit certain areas and limit the financial obligation to the citizens who benefit from the improvements. Urban Renewal Authorities (URAs) and Downtown Development Authorities (DDAs) allow jurisdictions to leverage Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to make projects feasible and encourage private investment.
There are a number of related efforts that can run concurrently with the planning process outlined above. The City has received a grant to design and construct ADA improvements along North Main through the federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). The timeline appears to be such that the conceptual designs and priorities created through the mobility planning process can inform the locations and final designs of these improvements.
CDOT and the City are currently cooperating on a survey of the U.S. Highway 550 right-of-way boundary and topography along the entire corridor. This is a relatively independent process, but will be invaluable as redevelopment proposals move toward construction.
Finally, CDOT has secured funding to complete extensive upgrades to the 22nd and Main intersection including new signals and pedestrian improvements. They also have funding for signal replacement at the 32nd and Main intersection. Both of these projects are anticipated to be constructed in 2016. Once again, the conceptual designs created through the mobility planning effort will inform the final designs for these important projects.
The above summary outlines a deliberate and ambitious approach to coordinate multiple projects with the ultimate goal of an integrated, community-based vision for one of the most prominent areas of our community. This effort will use the most up-to-date planning methods for integrating transportation planning, land use planning, and urban design and will serve as a model for future planning efforts in Durango. The initiative is in direct response to Council's goal of establishing Character Districts for areas within the City. We look forward to getting input on this process at the Study Session and ask for Council's support of this multi-phase initiative. City staff looks forward to working with Council, the Planning Commission, other Boards and Commissions as applicable, and the community at large to achieve these notable goals.
If you have questions or comments about this effort, please contact Amber Blake, Director of Transportation & Sustainability, at (970) 375-4949 | Email Amber Blake, or Scott Shine, Planner III, at (970) 375-4858 | Email Scott Shine.