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Local News

Planning firm representatives visit Erwin to work on downtown plan

September 12th, 2011 7:04 am by Brad Hicks

ERWIN — Representatives from Kimley-HornandAssociates, the planning firm working with the town of Erwin to complete a downtown revitalization master plan, were once again in town Friday to kick off the design guidelines element of the master plan.

Greg Tidwell, with Smith Gee Studio, which is working with Kimley-Horn on the plan as a subconsulting firm, said setting design guidelines for new buildings or additions to existing buildings would help set fair and even expectations for new developments, set minimum standards for structures, promote a development pattern and enhance the character of a particular area over time.

“Most often when you talk about design guidelines, it’s a very small, defined area,” Tidwell said. “Usually they’ll be placed over what we call the overlay district.”

In this case, the planners are specifically focused on the downtown business district and the immediate surrounding areas.

Those in attendance at the public meeting held at Erwin Town Hall were provided with a packet of photographs of buildings and features from other cities and were asked to rank their “appropriateness,” or if they would fit in downtown. Features included lighting, awnings, signage and external utilities.

Information obtained from these surveys will assist planners in drafting design guidelines, Tidwell said.

“The design guidelines survey serves to identify the community preferences for architecture elements we’re going to discuss,” he said.

The results of this survey will be presented by the planners when they return for another public meeting in October, at which time they hope to present a preliminary plan for completion of the downtown revitalization master plan.

David Coode, with Kimley-Horn, said planners are also aiming to have a preliminary report, which would outline short-, middle- and long-term goals of the master plan complete by early 2012. This report also will include the probable costs associated with elements of downtown revitalization, Coode said.

The recommended design guidelines are to be incorporated into the master plan, Tidwell said. The planners said they intend to unveil the final report on downtown revitalization in mid-February.

Planners have previously met with Erwin officials and downtown businesses owners to discuss possible improvements that could be made to the area. They also held a public meeting in late July to gather resident input on potential improvements.

Items pointed out by Coode as elements for potential improvements include parking, signage, sidewalks and utilities. He said guiding principles in development of the master plan include establishing a pedestrian-friendly environment, facilitating private investment to bring new entrepreneurship in the downtown area, incorporating public space and public art into the district and ensuring involvement.

“All this is based on your ideas and concepts,” Coode said to those in attendance. “It has to be something that you feel is appropriate for Erwin since your living here on a day-to-day basis.”

The town has budgeted $150,000 and is using a $10,000 grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority for the plan’s development.

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