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A Vision for the Future

Workshops give glimpse of downtown area development

Consultants working for the city revealed plans to turn the empty lot on Lakeville between D and Washington streets into four blocks of commercial and residential properties that would be an extension of downtown.

The plans were among the various discussed at workshops held by the city beginning Tuesday, that encouraged residents to meet with city planners, engineers and architects in designing the area surrounding the future downtown SMART station, set to open in 2014.

The designs call for adding two streets to the area: one along the back end of the Petaluma rail station and the other running north-south and cutting through Copeland and Weller streets. 

“It’s the gateway. As people come to the Petaluma on the train, this (street) is the gateway to the river,” said Daniel Parolek, principal at Opticos Design in Berkeley, which is leading the design for the urban planning of the area.

Other design ideas included adding an open space between Warren Street and the river, as well widening D and E ast Washington streets. Another consideration is moving the bus stops on Copeland to the unnamed street behind the rail station. Opticos would like to add a turn lane to the former in order to help alleviate traffic in the area.

“It looks like a traffic sewer,” said Jeff Tumlin, from Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, a traffic consultant on the project. Traffic sewer is a term city planners use to describe thoroughfares that "flush" people from one point to another rather than aesthetically pleasing streets that pedestrians and cyclists can enjoy.

Tumlin and and Opticos hope that by widening those streets and adding turn lanes on D Street, in conjunction with less cars being on the road due to the train, traffic congestion would be alleviated, although they admit that it may always pose an issue.

The workshops began on Tuesday, when Opticos presented the audience with some points to consider--building new development to face the river, creating walkable neighborhoods and congregation points--before the audience was broken up into groups to come up with their own ideas for the area. 

Talk focused on the downtown station, now that the Corona Road station has been put on hold following a $88 million cut to the project budget last month. A lot of the discussion concerned traffic and parking.

Dennis and Zenny Warren, who attended the first workshop, lived in Petaluma when freight trains used to make regular stops here.  Their main concern was traffic, imagining a scenario where the D Street bridge is up at the same time the train comes in, causing a major traffic jam. 

“For those who haven’t experienced that, they’re going to be in for a surprise,” said Zenny.

Despite their trepidation, the Warrens and others in attendance talked more of how to best build the project, that city leaders and community activists have been view as crucial to creating a positive impression on visitors. 

“It will be like downtown," said Tumlin. "People who live here will want that (urban) kind of environment."

Officials plan to hold the next round of public meetings with Opticos in August or September, although some exploratory committees will likely meet between now and that time. 

Tom Corbett May 14, 2011 at 05:29 PM
That area has seen nice planning and designs in the past (one called Haystack Village, I believe). Some parts of those plans can be reused thus saving design costs...e.g. A large open area pedestrian mall like Corte Madera Village. Including covered open-air markets and seating. Many restaurants in our town would benefit from outdoor seating like Dempsey's and Waterfront Bistro as long as the afternoon winds are controlled. A must is to fix the VERY poor design for ingress/egress at the Visitor's Center to allow visiting motorhomes, etc to gain access without having to drive through downtown and around blocks and add to congestion. More restaurants and shops facing the river like a San Antonio river walk is still part of the Gen'l Plan and River Enhancement plan and it's been compromised in the past due to economic conditions, needed parking structures, etc. We can fix that now with the PRAP effort.

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