News

Snider Plaza Improvement Strategy

September 13, 2018
City Committees to look at various components of Snider Plaza Parking Improvement Strategy
 
The City of University Park has undertaken prior master planning, infrastructure analyses, and parking assessments for Snider Plaza.  In these efforts, stakeholder and City concerns over parking, failing infrastructure, and operations have been identified as critical items that need to be fixed.  There have also been opportunities raised on how to make Snider Plaza a more inviting place to shop and spend time.  To advance solutions to these issues, the City Council has authorized a new analysis to bring forth specific alternatives for the Council’s consideration.  As a resident or business owner in University Park and interested patron of Snider Plaza, the City wants to engage directly with you in the formation of these solutions. 

During April and May, public meetings were held to solicit input on how we can collectively move forward to solve these long-standing issues. This engagement has also provided an opportunity to review how other communities have improved the economy and experience of similar shopping districts to better inform our solutions. The meetings were facilitated by Paris Rutherford, a certified planner and University Park resident. 

As a result of those gatherings we received more than 200 ideas. This feedback helped Paris prepare options to best address those needs and concerns. During the May 17 Town Hall meeting, those in attendance were given the opportunity to rank those options based on individual preference. In June, a special City Council Work Session was held to brief Council on the progress of the public engagement process and the various options identified. 
 
Most recently, on July 17, the City Council continued its analysis of potential improvements to Snider Plaza during a public afternoon work session.  During the session, consultant Paris Rutherford provided Council with  information on potential financing concepts for a range of improvements. No formal action was taken.  Staff has developed a program of study and consideration on the merits, extent, and costs of potential improvements that will be assigned to various citizen committees.  Committee review will take place through the summer, and will begin with a program for major capital investment in the aging Snider Plaza infrastructure.  Below are links to the July 17 presentation and a tentative schedule for the various committees that will review the materials.
 
Slide Show Presentation - July 17
Tentative Committee Schedule

The schedule of prior meetings and a recap of each is included below.

Public Meeting (1) – Thursday, April 19. Public Meeting 1 was designed to gain input on what the UP community felt was important to consider.  A paper survey, containing eight questions specific to Snider Plaza was distributed.  The survey was also made available online.

Slide show presentation that preceded discussions during the April 19 town hall meeting.

 

Public Meeting (2) – Thursday, May 17 at City Hall. Through meetings, stakeholder conversations and returned surveys, we received more than 200 ideas.  This feedback helped our consultant prepare specific plans to address those needs and desires.  During the second public meeting, consultant Paris Rutherford shared those plans and asked for additional feedback from those in attendance.

Slide show presentation - May 17
 
City Council Work Session - Tuesday, June 19.  A special City Council work session was held to brief Council on the progress of our public engagement process. During the presentation Paris provided Council with an understanding of the three options most favored, including potential costs and next steps. Below are links to the video and presentation. 
 
Video - City Council Work Session 
Slide Show Presentation - June 19

So, how did we get to the Town Hall Meeting stage?

Decades of study on Snider Plaza issues

Since the City’s inception in 1924, Snider Plaza has proudly served as our community’s downtown.    Over the decades countless news stories and campus yearbooks have chronicled the Plaza as the preferred choice for shopping, dining and catching up with neighbors.  While the Plaza enjoys unwavering popularity and its charms are unquestioned, there remains two constants. 

Parking -- When asked for thoughts on how this community treasure can be improved, fixing the Plaza’s lack of parking is the common answer from visitors and tenants alike.  Indeed, since the early 1970’s, the City of University Park, Snider Plaza stakeholders, and various community members have studied how to solve parking shortcomings.  Unfortunately, these efforts have come and gone without resolution, in large part because of a continuing hurdle - the issue of where to put that additional parking and how to minimize inconvenience during construction.  However, in 2017 the City took proactive steps to begin to clear this hurdle with the purchase of 2 ½ lots on the 3400 block of Haynie.  Soon after the purchase, a roundtable workshop involving Snider Plaza owners, merchants and nearby residents was held to discuss next steps.  As a direct outgrowth of that workshop, the City Council appointed six Snider Plaza property owners to thoroughly study potential options.  After determining multiple new parking options, this committee recommended the City hire a consultant to conduct a feasibility study and develop cost estimates for the parking option it identified.   

Infrastructure – While the below grade utilities that were installed in the 1920’s have dutifully served the Plaza, the infrastructure is degraded and now beginning to fail.  As you may have noticed in recent water main failures and flooding, we have reached a point where we can no longer avoid the need to improve and replace these lines.  As this will involve some inconvenience, the City believes the community should consider all of the opportunities at hand to make Snider Plaza an even better reflection of the heart of University Park through this renovation process.  The Catalyst Group has been charged with focusing on this issue as well, and will be providing solutions that better position the Plaza for the future.

Laying the groundwork for an action plan

Following the property owner committee’s recommendations, the City issued a Request for Qualifications to engage a consultant to prepare solutions to the identified set of issues facing Snider Plaza.  After interviewing several firms, City staff recommended the Catalyst Group due to its personnel’s long experience with similar mixed-use and community-based shopping districts, its proposed approach to develop a comprehensive set of solutions working with Snider Plaza stakeholders, and its direct knowledge of Snider Plaza itself.  The City Council voted to hire the firm in 2018 and City staff has been working with the consultant to define this process.   This effort is being headed by the firm’s founder, Paris Rutherford, a nationally recognized certified planner, University Park resident, and frequent Plaza visitor.  After a series of stakeholder meetings and community wide engagement, his firm will present specific recommendations for City Council to consider.