City Council Hears Results Of Heber Downtown Study

Heber City’s Downtown Study has been completed, on Tuesday Heber City Council heard recommendations from the studies consultant.

In conjunction with the Heber Valley Bypass Study, a Downtown Study was also completed over recent months by Downtown Redevelopment Services. The study looked at an area from 200 North to 200 South and from 100 East to 100 West. The study included two online surveys with over 1,800 respondents for both. The study consultant Ben Levenger said that number was accurate as they were able to catch multiples including someone who copied and pasted the same answers 40 times in one survey. The copied responses were thrown out.

Two public meetings were also conducted where citizens could provide input. In a half-hour presentation to city council Levenger said they heard a few common requests.

“People wanted to provide a consistent theme throughout town,” Levenger explained. “That includes signage, buildings, colors of paint, all kinds of items. They want more vegetation. They want to have more additional civic or pedestrian spaces. Improve business diversity, we heard people say that they don’t come to downtown anymore because they don’t have a reason to come to downtown. Construct better streetscape, this one was specific for reducing the distance people have to cross from the street. People very much so don’t like to cross the street and noted they will park on one side of the street get in their car drive to the other side of the street and get out of their car.”

Other recommendations included vegetation between streets and sidewalk along with benches, trash cans, and bike racks. The proposed street would also have medians with vegetation in them, mid-block crossings, and long turn lanes so as to not block traffic. Less consensus was found when it came to ideas of how bicycle traffic should be implemented.

“People definitely wanted bike lanes through the town, but they were not necessarily set as to where they wanted them,” Levenger continued. “The breakdown came in it about 45% of the people wanted them on Main Street and 55% on a side street. Perception was that if Main Street every becomes a state road and it can be slowed down and it’s not necessarily for trucks, that may be the right time to put them on Main Street. Right now most people will not ride their bike on Main.”

Parking was another concern brought up by residents, but the study showed that there is not a lack of parking on Main Street.

“We did the chalk stick on peoples tires for about six hours one day,” Levenger said. “We had more than half the cars that didn’t move for six hours out on your Main Street corridor. So you don’t have a parking issue in your community, you have a parking tenure and a lack of striping issue. People park where they feel they can get out easiest. Which is typically not in a 22- or 20-foot parking style. That’s usually 20 feet from the car in front of them and nobody wants to park in that space. So by simply striping those spaces more cars in front of each shop.”

Furthermore, the study recommended putting angled parking on side streets which would increase parking stalls by 18%.

Levenger also recommends installing façade guidelines which he said need not be prescriptive or destroy the unique character of a building. He says implementing these guidelines could be relatively inexpensive.

“Roughly $20,000 gets you a fresh coat of paint, new first floor windows, a new awning and a hanging sign,” Levenger explained. “You’d be amazed how much that changes the look of the town. It doesn’t change your structure, but it does help people feel like it changes their town. Most people don’t see how you spend millions of dollars running infrastructure, but they will notice if you spend $10,000 on the façade of a building.”

Levenger says that improvements could be partially covered through the creation of a taxing body known as a downtown development authority.

“It typically has a 0.25% sales tax increase that gets captured and put back into only that area,” Levenger continued. “So, if you bordered it by your overlay district, it would only be allowed to be spent within that district. It can pay for building acquisitions, developer rehabs, anything that would help your downtown. Typically, there is a board that goes with and its set up as a nonprofit but it changes your community. Ran the numbers, year one is about $65,000 collected and it goes up between 7% and 8% a year. Obviously as more businesses come in it’ll go more than 8% a year.”

Finally, Levenger outlined the return on every dollar invested in improvements to a downtown area.

“So, street scape enhancements are your lowest $1.75,” Levenger said. “That is solely because they are so gosh darn expensive, between $1,400 and $2,200 a linear foot of road. Anchor building renovations and these buildings are what we term historically significant or have some kind of intrinsic value to your community. Those are $2 for every dollar invested. Then facades actually range from $3 to about $15 it all depends on how the money is spent. Whether it’s the lipstick on the pig theory it’s just paint and windows or if people actually have to do structural changes as well such as the tuck pointing and the other items.”

It was also suggested that the city reduce the speed limit through town. Results of the study can be found here.