A New Vision for Market Street

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Thursday February 21, 2013

Traveling along Market Street, with its craters and rocky terrain, it can become easy to yearn (at the least) for a less bumpy ride. But during night two of community visioning week, residents really stepped up and participated in interactive exercises that resulted in ideas for a Market Street that went far beyond a smoother driving surface; concepts that could turn Market Street into a destination and not simply a cut-through.

Project Manager for South Burlington Ilona Blanchard began with a presentation on how far we have come in terms of Market Street planning and what still needs to be accomplished. T he process could take as few as two years, but could take longer. Thus far, several key components have been resolved: funding through two grants, impact fees, environmental assessment, concept acceptance, and wetland delineation. The elements that still need to be updated or amended include: the streetscape concept and the Act 250 permit. Blanchard asked people, as they envisioned a new Market Street, to think about what will happen on Market Street in terms of vehicle speed, parking, and various street concepts—which could include buffered bike lanes, no curbs, landscaping and stormwater treatment—as well as identity and public art, and how it can be incorporated into the street.

After residents counted off by six, they were divided into groups and sent to various corners of the room where a facilitator, markers, and a large notepad awaited. Groups were timed and given ten minutes at each station to toss around ideas on the themes of activities, public art/identity, landscape/environment, roads, pedestrians, and bicycles. The energy and excitement around the possibilities was palpable. At the conclusion of the hour, many were hesitant to stop!

Each facilitator gave a summary of what people wanted to see. In terms of traffic and the roadway, a 15 mph limit was the average speed proposed. People felt it should be a street with ample transit accommodations, yet one that could adjust to higher volume—“Slow, but moving,” one individual said. For landscaping, people wanted to see large shade trees, edible gardens, hanging baskets, landscape medians, permeable paving, and seasonal interest. However, a concern over maintenance cost was brought up by numerous groups.

The public art and identity category generated a number of interesting ideas. From outdoor movies and chalking spots, to interactive light shows and wildlife exhibits. Activities and uses included festivals, farmers markets, and outdoor vendors, ice sculpting, space on the street to relax and have lunch, music, the arts, and potentially food trucks.

Separation between pedestrians and cyclists seemed to be important to all groups, since the users would likely be diverse—from students, to commuters, to families out for leisurely rides. In terms of pedestrians, everyone said that people should be the priority. A wide space where people can sit was mentioned as being preferable, but potentially having variable width along the street itself was another option.

While this exercise was rather broad and a means of generating variations on the potential of Market Street, the next meeting, being held on February 21, will narrow the focus further, and the anticipated result of the final meeting on March 7th will be to finalize a concept for Market Street to present to the City Council for potential approval by the end of March.

In the meantime, if you can’t make it to a meeting, you can offer your input online! Go to sbpathtosustainability.com and check out the placemap, where you can leave your comments on what you’d like to see South Burlington become.


SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent