The look of downtown Vevay could be changing with suggestions for new streetscape

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What might the downtown areas of Vevay – and for that matter, all of Vevay – look like when the community celebrates it’s bicentennial in 2013?

That plan was laid out at a public meeting last Thursday night, as a committee appointed by the Vevay Town Council told of its plans and findings with regard to how a new streetscape might impact the community.

Vevay Town Council members Tye Sullivan and Kirk Works led the meeting, which was attended by about 30 residents. Tye Sullivan told the audience that the plan that was being unveiled at Thursday’s meeting was the result of a lot of hard work by the local committee, using the expertise of HNTB.

“What is this project about? What will it look like? What are the next steps?” Tye Sullivan said to the audience. “Those are things that we hope to answer tonight, and also as the project moves forward. This is our plan for Vevay, and hopefully everyone will take pride n the program.”

Tye Sullivan said that the initial grant to look at creating a new streetscape for Vevay came from former town council member Pete Furnish; and that the six month process that brought everyone together last Thursday night began back in August of 2008. He said that there had been three steering committee meetings, and that after each meeting the staff from HNTB took back the suggestions of the committee and formulated them into the overall plan.

“This plan is the foundation for all future streetscape planning,” Tye Sullivan said. “It looks at public spaces, street signs and lighting, parking, landscaping, and more. This plan has been built upon prior plans.”

He also noted that one of the unique features of the overall plan is that it is very “green”, meaning that it’s environmentally-friendly and helps preserve the nature features of the community. He said that “water gardens” and using rainwater as a means to water the vegetation along the streets are all part of an exciting plan for the town.

Although the streetscape design will eventually include the town from town limit to town limit; Tye Sullivan said that there are three tiers to the project, with the first tier being in the center of town and then working out from there.

Tier #1 is the highest traffic areas of Vevay, and runs from Walnut Street to Main Cross Street along Main Street; and from Market Street north to Pike Street along Ferry Street.

Tier #2 will be a less extensive plan, but it will tie to the Tier #1 areas to give the entire town a common look. The second tier runs along Market Street from the “Y” at the museum west to Liberty Street; and then north to Main and proceeding on to Pike Street; along Main Street from the museum to Walnut Street; Ferry Street north from Pike to Seminary Street; Pike Street west from Ferry Street to Main Cross Street; and Main Street at Main Cross west to Union Street.

Tier #3 works its way east from the “Y” at the museum to the edge of the town limits; and also west out of town from Union Street to the town limits; and will be more of a “transitional” area, letting motorists and visitors know that they are coming into downtown.

One of the big concepts at the heart of the overall project is that the committee wants to create “walk-ability” in the downtown areas, particularly in Tier #1. Tye Sullivan said that local residents may have several stops to make downtown, but rather than parking once and walking, they are driving from point to point.

“We hope that once all of this is completed, people will want to walk around town rather than drive around the corner,” Tye Sullivan said.

In creating an atmosphere that people will want to walk in, the committee sees that one of the main focuses will have to be on improving walker safety.

“Sometimes, with the way traffic speeds through town, you sort of hold your breath and step off of the curb and go for it,” Kirk Works said, bringing laughter to the room. “We want to make it more safe for people to walk.”

One of the areas that will lead to that safety are the sidewalks and crosswalks, and Brooke Moore of HNTB said that the design would provide separation between the sidewalks and the streets.

“There’s not much room, we understand that,” Brooke Moore said. “We have also looked at sidewalk furniture, from benches to trash receptacles. Those need to be functional, but take up as little space as possible.”

Kirk Works said that it is also important to bring a community identity to the project, noting that the committee came up with a vision statement that has guided their discussions: “Vevay – Charming, authentic, sustainable. Rich in history and opportunity.”

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The big question of the night is: “How much will it cost and where will the money come from?”

Kirk Works said that there is no estimate of cost because the presentation on Thursday night is merely a proposal, so actual estimates can’t be given until actual engineering and design is completed – but he did offer his thought.

“It’s going to cost a lot,” he said. “I just is. We’ve got this part done, and it’s probably the easiest part. Now for the hard part, we’ve got to fund it.”

Kirk Works said that the town will pursue several options in coming up with the funding. The primary target is a Community Focus Fund grant from the state; which will be matched by funds from the town. He also said that federal stimulus money was a possibility; and that the town would also work with the Community Foundation of Switzerland County and the Vevay-Switzerland County Foundation on funding possibilities. He will also contact the Paul Ogle Foundation in Jeffersonville.

“We are also hoping to work with community organizations on getting donations,” Kirk Works said. “It may not be much, but every bit will help.”

As for a possible timeline, Kirk Works said that the Community Focus Fund grant has to be submitted in September of this year; and the town will be notified if it received a grant in November.

Should the grant be approved, final engineering and design would be done around January of next year; with the bid process going on from May to June of 2010. If the bids are awarded in July, work could start in August of 2010.

“These are best case scenarios of what we could do,” Kirk Works said. “This is probably the most optimistic timeline, and these dates could slip a bit. If the town does get the Community Focus Fund grant, we have 18 months to use the money.”

Tye Sullivan and Kirk Works both said that they hope to have all three tiers of the project done and being enjoyed by residents and tourists by the town’s bicentennial in 2013 – but it will take work.

“The big thing is funding,” Kirk Works said. “The town can’t pay for it all. If we did, it would take 10-20 years to get everything done.”

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Want to see the plan? Copies are available to check out at Vevay Town Hall, and Tye Sullivan and Kirk Works are also hoping to have copies available for viewing at the Switzerland County Public Library.