By Michael Howell
An incredible amount of work involving city staff, a couple of consulting firms, downtown business organizations and community members has led to the production of a Downtown Master Plan that includes a 90-page Strategic Action Plan containing 16 initiatives with over 70 specific actions aimed at achieving the desired goals of a healthier, happier and more vibrant community and business center.
Mary Bosch of Marketek presented the plan to the Hamilton City Council at their last meeting in June. She worked closely with Sandy Fischer and Jeff Bouma of Fischer-Bouma Partnership in producing the plan. They also worked closely with the city staff, the Hamilton Downtown Association, the Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement District and many members of the community, doing the ground work for establishing the plan. That included an examination of existing conditions and trends through the implementation of a community survey in which 450 people and dozens of businesses participated. The results of that survey can be viewed on the City of Hamilton’s website. A survey of existing businesses and properties was also conducted which included an inventory of vacant buildings and prospective new building sites.
The plan is replete with suggestions and recommendations for improving the economic vitality of the business district by making the city a more inviting place for local residents to shop as well as attracting more out of town and even out of state visitors. Goals of the plan are to provide guidance for improving economic and aesthetic qualities of downtown, address physical design concepts, marketing and business development to improve economic vitality and develop parking management strategies.
The action plan includes everything from implementing specific community marketing techniques, to development of parking areas, and beatification programs integrating landscaping and art to make the place more attractive to shoppers.
The cost of implementing the whole plan is estimated to range from $573,500 to $603,500. Bosch called the price tag “daunting.” But the potential returns are great, she said, with over $51 million in retail spending leaving the valley annually to be spent elsewhere.
The cornerstone of the development plan would involve constructing a “gateway” to the community at the corner of Main Street and Highway 93. This improvement alone accounts for a bulk of the costs to the plan. But it is considered crucial in achieving the goal of presenting a more attractive and inviting city that can stop travelers in their tracks.
One of the plan’s recommendations regarding the best organizational structure for achieving the desired goals is to combine the three most active organizations in downtown development – the City, the Hamilton Downtown Association and the Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement District – into one Main Street organization. The Main Street Program is a state-sponsored program that provides assistance to towns and cities across the state to help preserve their historic character and develop their downtown business districts. Russ Lawrence, Director of the Hamilton Downtown Association, said that the first step in that direction had already been taken and that his organization had already been accepted as an affiliate member of the Main Street Program.
The entire Master Plan can be viewed on the city’s website as well as the results of the Community Outreach Survey and the Existing Conditions report. Go to www.cityofhamilton.net.