Group presents recommendations on improving Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES – Creating a presence of both Port Angeles and the downtown area would be one way to create a more inviting city, a group of architects told Port Angeles leaders and citizens on Wednesday night.

Two of the things that could be accomplished short term would be to evaluate the parking situation along Front and First streets as well as throughout the downtown area and make the signs clearer and less cluttered, the team told the group of more than 100 people who came to listen to the presentation.

The “sustainable design assessment team” made a three-day assessment of the city’s International Corridor Area, focusing on the beautification and revitalization of the business district.

“The biggest thing you can do for the economy, environment and community is to create a sustainable downtown,” Wayne Feiden, planning director for the city of Northampton, Mass., and team leader, said.

Reevaluating the parking situation could be the first step in a long-term solution to reroute U.S. Highway 101 by making First Street a two-way, four-lane street where the highway would run and making Front Street a two-lane, two-way street more focused on community, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Robert Mitchell, special assistant for planning for the state of Massachusetts, said creating angled parking would be one way to help with the parking situation.

Nearly every member of the team mentioned how the parking lots downtown are not visually appealing.

The cost could be enormous, said Scott Batson, lead engineer for the Portland, Ore., and Bureau of Transportation Community, but the results would transform the area.

He outlined a view of the two streets that could include large bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks for pedestrians and medians to manage the traffic.

He added that developing a plan for how anyone could be transported where they need to go — whether or not they have a car — is essential for stainability of transportation.

“One thing that struck me was that it is easier to get to another country without a car than to get to Hurricane Ridge,” Mitchell said.

Defining the downtown and the city could begin as a sign project.

Feiden said many of the changes would require community support and initiative.

“For example, with the way-finding [signs] — many times it will be a downtown organization who picks that up and helps implement it,” he said.

“You, of course, would need the approval of City Council, but it can be done by other organizations.

“It would be a mistake to come here in 10 years and be asking the City Council why they didn’t do any of these things, because they are things that need to be done by the community.”

The international corridor includes the strip of land near Front and First streets stretching from Valley Creek to the west, Ennis Creek to the east, the waterfront to the north and the bluffs to the south.

The assessment team is here as part of a $15,000 grant awarded to the city in October from the American Institute of Architects. Port Angeles was one of 10 cities chosen out of 15 that applied.

Port Angeles City Council member Cherie Kidd, who is also chairwoman of the Port Angeles Forward Committee, said the committee would be looking at the recommendations and how they could be implemented as well as making suggestions to the City Council.

Other suggestions from the group:

• Develop a city plan and codes that would break the city into parts that can be developed individually.

• Take the Farmers Market back to the downtown.

• Develop specific areas of town as viewpoints and think about how the city corridors look from those points.

• Improve accessibility for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The team included Feiden and Batson; Gary Ferguson, executive director of Ithaca Downtown Alliance in Ithaca, N.Y., economic development of downtowns;• Seth Harry, Maryland architect and urban designer for American Institute of Architects; Carol Mayer-Reed, Portland, Ore.-based landscape architect; Robert Mitchell, special assistant for planning for the state of Massachusetts;• Erin Simmons, director of community assistance for the Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects.

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Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at paige.dickerson@peninsuladailynews.com.

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