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Downtown revitalization comp plan update


(12/31/2006)

Goals and Objectives

1. Historic Preservation.

Preserve and enhance the historic character of Downtown Winona, as expressed through the Historic Preservation goals and policies. Maintain and improve upon the condition of historic downtown buildings.

2. Downtown-Riverfront Connections.

Enhance the accessibility and view of the Mississippi River from within the Downtown Winona district.

Objectives:

Create a seamless transition between downtown and the riverfront.

Create a presence of residential, retail, restaurant, entertainment and professional office use along the river near downtown.

Make the downtown area of the riverfront accessible to recreational boating traffic.

Establish Levee Park as a major recreational destination for residents and tourists.

3. Economic Development.

Promote and enhance economic development in the downtown area.

Objective:

Through public, private and non-profit implementation of multi-use planning, creative financing and encouragement of entrepreneurial endeavors, create an area of economic vitality in Downtown Winona that will by its activity establish it as the heart of the community.

4. Connectivity.

Develop clear and obvious transportation connectivity to and throughout the downtown area that addresses safety and supports commerce for residents and tourists alike.

Objectives:

Establish easily identified routes that will get people from highways, the airport and the passenger rail depot into downtown.

Better define safe truck routes via clear signage and minimize the presence of trucks on downtown streets. (see also Transportation)

Assure an adequate and visible supply of short- and long-term downtown parking, serving visitors, employees and downtown residents.

Provide safe pedestrian and non-motorized transportation facilities downtown.

Reduce vehicular traffic speeds downtown.

5. Enhanced Streetscape.

To create a downtown streetscape that is attractive and inviting to visitors, current and prospective residents, downtown workers and business owners.

Objectives:

Implement streetscape improvements, including lighting, street furniture and vegetation, designed at a pedestrian scale that fosters comfort and safety and encourages both daytime and evening activity.

Policies

The following policies are intended to provide a general framework for downtown revitalization efforts. More site-specific plans and recommendations will be included in the complete Downtown Revitalization Plan. (Note that the historic preservation policies relating to historic preservation are in that chapter of this report.)

1. Downtown-Riverfront Connections.

Develop improved public access to and use of the riverfront while preserving the mixed use heritage of the "working" river. This policy includes recommendations for street connections and relates closely to the following policy on the redesign of Levee Park.

Main Street should be redesigned as the "gateway" to Levee Park. This action depends on relocating the railroad switching yard along Levee Park, which may not occur for some time. Interim actions include:

Create a comfortable and safe access to Levee Park over the railroad tracks at Main Street [question on feasibility]. Access to the river by way of Main Street must be as wide as Main Street itself;

Until the railroad switching yard is relocated, create comfortable and safe access to Levee Park over the railroad tracks at all access points.

Develop signage and landscaping for all alternative street accesses to the River (as well as Main Street) that clearly designates, invites, and draws one to Levee Park from the Downtown area.

2. Levee Park Redesign.

Levee Park should be redesigned according to the following criteria. (However, it is understood that the actual redesign will be a separate process with additional public input, and that the final design will reflect this process.)

Future design of Levee Park should reference and draw from the original Levee Park design plan, updated to meet contemporary needs;

Remove the fencing and landscaping which block views and access to the riverfront;

Increase the docking facilities on the riverfront and include a means of easy identification (directions and attractions) and access routes from the docking area to the downtown area;

Based on the finalized plans for Levee Park, examine the potential interaction between vehicles and pedestrians in order to determine appropriate vehicle access. In general, maintain vehicular access to overlook areas, but limit vehicular access along the length of the river to transit and emergency vehicles.

Restructure Levee Park so that one can easily see the river from throughout the park. This will likely mean terracing of some sort.

Relocate or redesign the concrete slab in front of the current Wilkie to make it more usable and inviting.

Throughout Levee Park, create covered and uncovered picnic and seating areas and better lighting in order to make the area functional, inviting, and safe for both day and evening entertainment venues and gatherings.

3. Mixed Use.

Encourage mixed use, including commercial, housing, office and entertainment uses, throughout the downtown riverfront area, fostering pedestrian flow and activity. Mixed use can be promoted through updated zoning and public investments such as the Levee Park redesign. Encourage a strong arts presence in the downtown area. Seek alternative sites for industrial facilities that could be relocated, opening up possibilities for redevelopment.

4. Business Mix.

Define and establish an appropriate business mix that will make the downtown area vibrant year round, during the day and into the evening and be appealing for residents and visitors alike. While the current downtown business mix is oriented towards community needs, there is a need for additional visitor-oriented retail and services. Examples of desirable businesses include:

Specialty retail oriented towards particular clusters of activities, such as crafts, that can draw customers from a larger area;

Arts and crafts galleries and artists' studios, providing opportunities for visitors to interact with artists and craftspeople;

River-oriented recreational equipment and visitor services, such as canoeing, kayaking, biking and fishing equipment and tours.

Restaurants - there is a strong desire for more upscale "fine dining" restaurants, but these have proved difficult to attract and retain. However, as the number of downtown residents increases, the potential for such businesses will increase.

5. Support New and Existing Businesses.

Explore offering new business incentive programs, incubator concepts and business start up resources. Expand existing training opportunities, and create new ones, for business owners in areas such as customer service and employee training.

6. Downtown Housing.

Create additional living space in the downtown area that will enhance the vitality of the business community. In this case, Winona can draw upon housing prototypes from the Twin Cities and other riverfront communities such as La Crosse. Loft-type multifamily buildings of 4 to 6 stories in height, with some amount of retail at ground floor level, have proved popular both as condominiums and rental units. While the condo market may have peaked in larger cities, its potential in Winona remains untapped. Potential market segments include university faculty, staff and graduate students, empty-nesters, retirees and young professionals. Live-work combinations such as artists' studios should also be explored. The Downtown Framework Plan identifies several suitable locations for conversions or new construction. Of course, detailed market studies would likely be part of any large-scale development proposal.

7. Recreation.

Create recreational opportunities that will appeal to downtown residents, residents of the rest of Winona, and visitors. Recreational opportunities are those that relate to use of the river and riverfront (boating, biking, fishing, etc.) as well as the City's extensive upland trail and park resources.

8. Tourism.

Coordinate tourism and hospitality activities and promotions within the downtown area. Continue to build on communication and promotional opportunities to encourage tourism activity in the downtown area, working with public, private and nonprofit organizations.

9. Wayfinding and Traffic Flow.

Define clear and well-signed traffic routes into downtown for general vehicular traffic, truck traffic, and bicycle and pedestrian traffic. A citywide wayfinding system should be developed to address the needs of these different populations. (See Transportation section for discussion of specific routes.)

Investigate the feasibility of a downtown/riverfront trolley service linking satellite parking areas to downtown businesses and recreational, cultural and entertainment venues, including the Marine Art Museum, the Historical Society Museum, the Watkins and Polish museums, and Levee and Riverview parks.

10. Parking Management and Improvements.

As with many downtowns, Winona suffers from somewhat exaggerated perceptions of inadequate parking supply because of peak hour shortages of visible parking. Parking management should distinguish between different populations:

Visitors and customers: highest priority for visible and convenient on- or off-street parking;

Employees: long-term, off-street parking, with incentives for its use and disincentives for on-street parking;

Downtown residents: need dedicated off-street parking, although at lower ratios than typical single-family housing (i.e., 1.5 spaces per unit). The issue of student housing and related parking demands will require some additional analysis.

The site-specific parking recommendations outlined in the Downtown Framework Plan include the following strategies:

Conversion of several north-south street segments to one-way pairs in order to provide diagonal parking on both sides, increasing the on-street supply;

Conversion of parallel to diagonal parking on one side of several two-way streets;

Recommendations for structured parking in combination with liner retail or offices uses in several central locations. ("Liner" buildings have retail or office uses wrapped around one or more facades, with parking in the interior.)

Surface parking lots in more remote locations, with incentives for employee or overflow resident use, and a possible trolley or shuttle service.

Provision of resident parking on new housing or mixed use development sites.

11. Streetscape Improvements.

Continue to implement streetscape improvements throughout the downtown, with priority given to those blocks that provide connections to the riverfront and support the greatest concentration of pedestrian-oriented uses. Streetscape improvements will require more detailed design, but should include:

Wayfinding signage with a historic appearance that leads pedestrians and motorists to downtown landmarks.

Street trees and other landscaped green space that will attract future downtown residents and provide gathering spaces.

Decorative lighting that is coordinated with benches and trash receptacles in design and color.

Decorative brick paving in the "boulevard" area of downtown sidewalks and within crosswalks.

Preservation of existing brick streets.

In addition to the design of streetscape improvements, creation of sign standards and faade improvement guidelines for downtown businesses, both within and outside of local historic districts, will complement and strengthen the public streetscape investment.

12. A Permanent Downtown Association.

The existing ad-hoc Downtown Revitalization Committee should evolve into an ongoing structured downtown association that will oversee the implementation of this plan and lead the City's downtown revitalization efforts. The existing committee has already established a strong set of priorities. Additional activities could include:

Organization of seasonal events such as Steamboat Days

Encouragement of consistent business hours and shared promotions

Recruitment of complementary businesses

Oversight of specific projects such as the Levee Park redesign or streetscape improvements.

Potential strategies to support its efforts include:

Membership or contributions by businesses and downtown organizations such as the Winona County Historical Society, Great River Shakespeare Festival, etc.

Creation of a special services district (SSD) similar to those created in many Minnesota cities and districts. An SSD can raise funds for desired downtown improvements, activities or events, using assessments from businesses, a majority of which must agree to participate.

 

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