Port Angeles visions: Exactly what architectural experts recommend for city improvement

PORT ANGELES — The American Institute of Architects’ lengthy report on ways to improve Port Angeles will be used, said City Manager Kent Myers.

“We don’t want the study to sit on the shelf,” he said.

The 87-page report, “Downtown Port Angeles and the Gateway Corridor: Reconnecting to the Community,” analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of two of Port Angeles’ main commercial areas — downtown and the U.S. Highway 101 entrance to the downtown, referred to as the Gateway Corridor — and provides recommendations on how they can be changed to bring more business to town.

Myers said city officials intend to put many of the recommendations in the report, which was released Aug. 17, into action, and added that staff will present the information to local organizations over the next few months.

A public forum on the report is also in the works, although no date has been set, he said.

The report, which is available on the city’s Web site at www.cityofpa.us/citygovernment.htm, was funded by a grant with a $5,000 match from the city, and is based on a three-day visit from a six-member AIA design team in March.

Six categories

It has six categories: views, sustainable transportation, downtown and gateway corridor, downtown parking, defining downtown and downtown economic development, and urban design.

Each section has dozens of recommendations.

Myers said the city will need help from local organizations or state Department of Transportation to fund many of the recommendations.

He used the effort to spruce up downtown, called “Our Community at Work — Painting Downtown” project as an example of how the city can work with local organizations to improve these commercial areas.

“It shows what can be accomplished when partnerships work together,” Myers said.

The city has already had some early success with the design team’s study.

Painting Downtown was inspired by the design team’s visit, and the city has already implemented several preliminary recommendations, including the creation of a facade improvement program, changes to its comprehensive and capital facilities plans, and bringing the Port Angeles Farmers Market downtown.

Some upcoming projects, based on the report, Myers said will be building a promenade on the waterfront that incorporates the Waterfront Trail and improvements to the ferry terminal, creating more of a presence downtown for the Olympic National Park, and increasing activities at The Gateway transit center to encourage people to spend more time downtown.

First, Front streets

Among the suggestions are to create a roundabout at the intersection of First, Front and Golf Course Road, and to make both First and Front streets from Golf Course Road west to Lincoln Street two-way thoroughfares.

Myers said the city will look at “de-coupling” First and Front streets from Lincoln Street east to Golf Course Road, and perhaps rerouting the truck route away from downtown, as the report recommends.

The report says that First and Front streets in the Gateway Corridor should both become two-way roads to improve the flow of cross-town traffic.

First Street would become the highway with four lanes instead of two.

Front Street could therefore become the focus for parking in the corridor, bike lanes and “pedestrian activities,” the report says.

Both streets would remain one-way routes downtown, from Lincoln Street west to Valley Street.

Myers said such a move would improve traffic safety, since fewer vehicles would backtrack on the one-way system to reach their destination.

But he added that any decisions about changing the streets would be a few years away and would require funding from Transportation.

The report also recommends turning the intersection of First and Front streets and Golf Course Road into a roundabout.

In reference to rerouting the truck route away from downtown, which the report says impedes commerce, Myers said he wasn’t sure how that could be accomplished.

“It would require quite a bit of study,” he said.

“It would take a very thorough look.”

Views and nature

In the report’s first category — views and natural systems — some of its recommendations include:

• Increasing trail access through the ravines up to Olympic National Park and Peninsula College.

• Limiting building heights in some areas to preserve public view points.

• Approve murals of only high artistic quality.

• Develop a “signage” master program to reduce visual clutter.

Sustainable transportation

To improve transportation, the report also recommends:

• Creating four pedestrian use classifications and four bicycle classifications for city streets.

• Adding way finding signs for bikes.

The two gateways

With the corridor, the report says that the city needs to better link the neighborhoods on the north and south sides of the highway, which could be done through adding pedestrian crosswalk signals and bike lanes on cross streets.

It also recommends developing a landscape ordinance, giving the Washington, Race and Francis street intersections a more neighborhood feel to separate those areas from the rest of the strip, day lighting portions of White Creek and creating a new entrance sign where First and Front streets converge.

For the downtown gateways, meaning the ferry terminal and U.S. Highway 101, the report’s recommendations include:

• Adding signs that notify people that they are entering downtown and tells them where they can find shops, restaurants and other services.

• Creating unique cityscape designs that separates downtown from the strip commercial architecture of the corridor.

Downtown parking

A problem with parking downtown, the report notes, is that the parking lots create large gaps between buildings.

The report’s recommendations include a comprehensive parking study, consolidating parking areas, switching to angled on-street parking, and creating more bike racks.

Downtown economic development

A problem facing economic development downtown, the report says, is that its image to ferry passengers doesn’t encourage them to spend their time and money there.

The design team’s recommendations on this issue and economic development in general include:

• Increasing pedestrian access from the waterfront to Front Street.

• Establishing portable informational kiosks on downtown activities during the peak tourism season.

• Creating more street art and encouraging the growth of art-related businesses and activities.

• Pedestrian and vehicle way finding signs.

• Adding flags or banners on Railroad Avenue to increase color.

• Closing Laurel Street for events.

• Encouraging street and sidewalk vendors, particularly on Railroad Avenue.

• Adding downtown housing.

The report suggests that the city develop a form based code that would guide urban design around its recommendations.

The purpose of this, the report says, is to create a “regulatory framework” that describes how a place or neighborhood will look like once fully developed.

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Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at tom.callis@peninsuladailynews.com.

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