While it doesn’t seem like long ago that construction crews dedicated themselves to sprucing up Main Street, replacing aging infrastructure beneath the roads and adding other features, the route will receive another update in 2023.
While that date still feels far away, it’s reassuring that the Wyoming Department of Transportation and local officials have started planning for the project.
Ideas have been discussed, sketched and collected as the city seeks to partner with WYDOT.
Two ideas that have stuck out in conversations around the community are the need for more parking and the desire to make the downtown area more pedestrian friendly. Both sound like great ideas, but we must be thoughtful about how those ideas manifest themselves.
If the downtown area is more pedestrian friendly, that means more people walking the sidewalks, peeping in shop windows and potentially spending some more money.
Adding more parking, for example by narrowing the road to just two lanes and adding diagonal parking, could reduce the distance downtown shoppers have to walk to reach their destinations. In doing so, it could limit the other stores, restaurants and galleries they pass, resulting in fewer dollars spent. This, of course, is not the desired result.
A multi-level parking structure, on the other hand, might accomplish both of those missions — it would increase parking while encouraging sidewalk and window shopping. Care could be given to ensure the structure adds to the beauty of the community rather than detracts from it. Other promising ideas have included closing Grinnell Plaza, making it a hub for community events all year and changing the way we think about downtown. It doesn’t have to be only a retail center of the community. It can also be a destination for the arts, restaurants, outdoor activities and more. As the city and WYDOT continue planning for the 2023 project, and as community members offer their input, all involved should consider the impact changes would have not only on their own needs, but also the needs of a growing community.
Think outside the box. Dream big. We may not get everything on the wishlist, but we can plan for a future that continues to include a thriving downtown.