Downtown workshop follow-up

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2016

Jason Fondren, planning studio leader for KPS Group, takes resident feedback as he marks a design schematic of downtown.

Jason Fondren, planning studio leader for KPS Group, takes resident feedback as he marks a design schematic of downtown.

“Design is the downtown experience,” said Jason Fondren, planning studio leader for KPS Group. “That and human interaction are the two things that drive downtown.”

Fondren was speaking to the nearly 50 residents gathered at The Studio for the Downtown Plan Open Workshop meeting Thursday night.

Fondren explained how creating a cohesive attractive design for downtown gives the area an advantage over commercial businesses.

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“Think about parking in one of the back spots at a large grocery store,” he said. “Walmart, for instance. The distance between one of those back spots and the store is about 600 to 800 feet depending on which door you’re going in. Perimeter parking downtown is about 700 feet from the middle of the square. The difference downtown is you’re not walking through a parking lot dodging cars and buggies. Downtown you have sidewalks and you get to walk past different shops on your way to your destination.”

The problem, Fondren said, is that people view parking two or three blocks away differently than they view parking in the back of a parking lot. It feels farther away, he said. He believes that extending the design elements further out towards that perimeter parking, and filling the buildings surrounding the Square with businesses that people want more of, would greatly affect people’s perception of perimeter parking.

Fondren wasn’t the main speaker at the meeting though; the main speakers were the citizens. Citizens broke into five groups to discuss the five core qualities of downtown, listed as promotion, vitality, movement, appearance and network linkage. After about 20 minutes of discussion, a spokesperson from each group gave a presentation on ideas that came out of their group’s brainstorming session.

Some ideas proposed by attendees included parking garages, a Troy University shuttle stop, brick walkways, free Wi-Fi, expansion of the Square’s aesthetics to surrounding blocks and more.

Residents also got to vote for their eight favorite examples of streetscapes, architecture, and public space and art. Greenery elements and traditional architectural design garnered much of the votes. That could be expected, since a survey performed at the first meeting found that 25 percent of participants consider trees, sitting areas and the gazebo as the best part of downtown. Another 11 percent found traditional buildings to be the most important quality of downtown.

Participants said they’d also like to see even more dining options downtown, including outdoor dining. When asked what locations stood out for possible outdoor dining, several residents mentioned a roofless building on East Walnut Street.

After comments were taken, Fondren began working on a design schematic that incorporated many of the issues that residents have brought up at the two meetings, including what the residents viewed as “gateways” to the city and where aesthetic improvement is most important. It also pointed out available parking, downtown corridors and buildings that residents considered blight.

The next meeting in the Downtown Plan series will be held at 4:00 p.m. Thursday, July 28 at City Hall. A draft plan will be presented to the Troy Planning Commission at the meeting. For more information, go to or call Melissa Sanders at (334)-670-6058.