The Mammoth Lakes Town Council and Planning and Economic Development Commission (PEDC) sat down on Oct. 16 in a joint workshop presentation and discussion of a new Draft Main Street Plan. The Draft Plan draws on the previous 2010 Downtown Concept for Main Street, which had envisioned a ‘feet first’ approach, including the removal of existing frontage roads to bring businesses closer together and provide room for new development. According to the new Draft Plan, funded through a California Department of Transportation Community-Based Transportation Planning grant and completed by Boulder, Colorado urban design and planning studio Winter & Company, “The street design concept for Main Street … is intended to support a more vibrant and pedestrian-oriented downtown.”
Noré Winter of Winter & Company noted that Mammoth’s Main Street currently “acts as a conduit, not a destination.” Visitors travel up or down Main Street without incentive to pause and linger in gathering places like plazas, parks, or public walkways, or park in centralized parking locations and use public transportation, he said. To rectify this, the Draft Main Street Plan envisions saving the current curb-to-curb dimensions, while adding continuous pedestrian and bicyclist facilities, enhanced transit stops and on-street parking opportunities.
The Draft Plan splits Main Street up into three sections: Downtown Main Street (between Sierra Park Road and Manzanita Road), Resort Gateway Area A (between Manzanita Road and Mountain Boulevard), and Main Street Area B (between Mountain Boulevard and Minaret Road). The new Downtown Main Street design includes a landscaped median, parallel parking, landscape buffer between parking and a cycle and pedestrian track, and removal of frontage roads to allow redevelopment to move forward to the edge of the new sidewalk, which would be about 35 feet closer to the street than most of the existing buildings.
The Resort Gateway Area A design includes new landscaping, sidewalk and bus pullouts, conversion of the existing sidewalk to a multi-use path for pedestrians and bicycles, new sidewalks along the existing frontage road, and encouragement of redevelopment to move up to the sidewalk edge along the frontage road.
Resort Gateway Area B would include enhanced bus shelters, a multi-use path on the north side of the road, a landscape buffer and sidewalk adjacent to the curb on the south side of the road, and possible terracing of the north-side slope of Main Street, among other changes.
Addressing some of the conceptual drawings, Winter said, “Don’t freak out if it’s your property we’re redeveloping, here. We had to test the design.” This led Mayor Rick Wood to question whether Winter & Company had received adequate feedback from property owners who might be affected by the Main Street Plan. “We always want more feedback than we ever get,” Winter said, “but we did get a good cross-section. Enough to indicate that there are some who would be willing to move [on the project] today, and others who don’t see ever changing their property, and others who say, ‘I’d love to … but I’m afraid to.’”
Winter reassured participants in the joint workshop that any changes to Main Street would be made incrementally. The total cost estimate for actual construction is about $18.2 million, Winter said. Funding mechanisms for the different stages of the project could come from sources such as grants, Development Impact Fees, Town tax measures, and Right of Way Incentive Program, among others. However, Council member Matthew Lehman pointed out that some funding sources Winter mentioned, such as bonds or TBID (Tourism Business Improvement District), would not be available for Town use.
The Town would also have to take into consideration future impacts to long-term operations and maintenance like snow hauling and removal, sidewalk maintenance, landscaping and trash removal, Winter said. In addition, he pointed out that this vision of ‘Downtown’ Mammoth would require the development of parking opportunities. “Snow management and parking are both going to take a public/private organizational structure,” he said.
The Town has posted a copy of the Draft Main Street Plan on its website for public review. The public comment period for the Draft Plan ends Nov. 15. After that, Winter said, Winter & Company hopes to bring back a Final Plan for Town Council review and approval in January/February of 2014.