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Snider Plaza Parking Improvement Strategy - Town Hall Meetings

April 20, 2018
Snider Plaza Parking Improvement Strategy - Town Hall Meetings

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 will be held to gain input on how we can collectively move forward to solve these long-standing issues.  It is also an opportunity to review how other communities have improved the economy and experience of similar shopping districts to better inform our solutions.   These meetings will be facilitated by Paris Rutherford, a certified planner and University Park resident. The schedule of meetings and need for your involvement is outlined below.

Meeting Schedule

Public Meeting (1) – 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 19 at City Hall. The first meeting in this series of discussions will be a public discussion in a town hall format designed to gain input on what the UP community feels is important for consideration.      

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

 

Public Meeting (2) – 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 17 at City Hall.  This second public meeting will be held to present the feedback gained to date, and options on how to address the challenges and opportunities Given the importance of Snider Plaza to our community, please make plans to attend the public meetings to offer your ideas and suggestions.

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.