Study offers insights into assets, potential for Downtown Troy

Published 3:00 am Saturday, June 18, 2016

Downtown Troy | Illustration by Perry Brown

Downtown Troy | Illustration by Perry Brown

Should Troy’s downtown Square be a two-way traffic square? What’s the best way to connect downtown to Troy University? What are the biggest challenges facing downtown improvement?

These were just a few of the things discussed at the first meeting of the Downtown Plan, a 10-year project that seeks to revitalize Troy’s historic downtown district by 2026.

Tracy Delaney, consultant for South Central Alabama Development Commission (SCADC), was the primary presenter at Thursday’s meeting.

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“Troy is eager to promote economic growth and revitalization of the central business district,” Delaney said, explaining the purpose of the project. “However, Troy is not eager to promote growth at the cost of the features that make Troy unique.”

Delaney said the project seeks to revitalize the downtown area through programmatic, structural, and aesthetic improvements.

An initial inventory of downtown conducted by SCADC revealed that there are a total of 317 parcels in the downtown area, which Delaney defined as the properties fronting College Street, Madison Street, Three Notch Street/US 29 and Brundidge Street/Alphonsa Byrd Drive. Out of those 317 parcels, the inventory found 91 of them to be vacant, or 28.7 percent. The inventory also found 42 percent of commercial buildings to be substandard.

Delaney also talked about the findings of a transportation study that focused on providing convenient parking, a safe pedestrian environment, connection to major population centers and contributed to a thriving economy.

One portion of the study focused on downtown roads and traffic volumes. It found that US 29/Three Notch had the highest traffic volume in the downtown area with 12,500 trips per day. The next closest was W. Madison Street with 6,9000.

The study also looked at available parking. Findings indicated that only 58 percent of downtown’s 940 parking spaces were occupied at the peak parking hour of noon on a typical weekday. However, 98 percent of parking spaces surrounding the Square were occupied.

“That shows us that there is sufficient parking in the downtown area, but that the parking around the Square could use a little more parking space,” Delaney said.

Based on the findings of a portion of the study that evaluated traffic circulation at the square, the SCADC recommended converting the square to two-way traffic with angled parking. No parking spaces would be removed for the project. SCADC also suggested modifying traffic signal at the intersection of Three Notch Street and Church Street to accommodate two-way traffic.

Jason Fondren, a planning leader with KPS Group, revealed the findings of a study that would create a link from downtown to the university. The study evaluated different routes from Troy University to the downtown area to determine the best possible route for cyclists and pedestrians. The study resulted in a proposed route that would connect the two via Elm Street, Park Street and Madison Street. Most of the route would consist of an 8-foot wide multi-use path on one side of the road with a 5-foot sidewalk on the other. The Elm Street portion of the route would be a shared-road where cyclist can travel in vehicle lanes. The multi-use path would end when Elm Street intersects Brundidge Street, switching to 9-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides of the road.

Some citizens questioned whether the route would be utilized, but Fondren said he wasn’t worried about it.

“Birmingham introduced a bike-share program and within a year it had exceeded their initial expectations,” he said. “You used to never see anybody riding bikes around downtown Birmingham. Now you can’t go down there and not see someone on a bike.”

Delaney came back to the podium to discuss various wayfinding strategies that the city could implement. The strategies included a variety of signs that would direct visitors to areas first, and then to destinations within that area.

Before closing the meeting, Troy planning and zoning administrator Melissa Sanders opened the floor for discussion about amenities that could improve downtown Troy, using case studies of other southern downtowns as a guide. Some of the amenities that were brought up were apartments, improved alleys, pedestrian signals, trees and nightlife. Citizen Francis Davis suggested extending the Square’s aesthetic design one block all around.

“The space and structure already exists,” she said. “It just need to be updated to look the same as the square so it has that same feel.”

Officials said they were happy with the turnout and are looking forward to the next meeting, which Sanders said should be more interactive.

The meeting will be held on July 7 at 5 p.m. at The Studio. Residents will be able to view proposed strategies and graphics for the downtown and weigh in with their thoughts.