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Posted 14 September 2017
As Southwest Washington continues to see strong economic trends from 2016 to this year, the towns and cities in this area have looked to improve their town centers and main streets for a more “walkable” environment. Incorporating amenities, such as inviting streetscapes and better and safer pedestrian access, creates an environment that benefits the community and businesses and helps grow the local economy. Many smaller and rural cities and towns have decided to improve their town centers to attract individuals and families looking for friendlier and more affordable living places than large cities, while still maintaining strong community cohesiveness and a unique identity.
The city of Longview, Washington, is one such community that decided to use state and the Cowlitz County Rural Economic Development funds to enhance the appearance and accessibility of Commerce Avenue in its downtown area while engaging the community to form its vision for the city. With help from BergerABAM, the City of Longview reached out to its citizens for input regarding the improvements needed in its traditional business core of Commerce Avenue. BergerABAM provided conceptual streetscape designs for the downtown area and detailed design and engineering plans. Pedestrian and low impact development stormwater features and amenities were part of the streetscape design, as well as gathering places, sidewalk/planter strip plantings, street lighting, benches, bike racks, waste receptacles, street art, permeable pavers, and accessibility improvements. Vehicle access and parking considerations were also included.
For the downtown project, a community involvement plan included stakeholder meetings, online surveys, public meetings, and coordination with existing public advisory groups, local businesses, and neighborhoods. The highlight of the engagement process was a multiday design workshop for the downtown streetscape plan that attracted over 100 residents and business owners. During this public charrette, urban designers and illustrators worked closely with the community to translate their vision into plan graphics, sketches, and perspective drawings. On the final day of the event, the City and BergerABAM hosted an informational meeting to present the findings and conceptual streetscape designs, as well as developed project fact sheets for all three projects and coordinated mailings to businesses and residents within the project area.