SIERRA VISTA — Two design ideas presented to city officials for the revamp of the West End have been melded into one plan that aims to please the public and incorporate practicality.
The new hybrid design plan, dubbed “The Boardway,” uses all the components of the original Boardwalk idea presented to city officials by designers and planners. But it’s bolstered by adding one aspect from the second design concept titled “Parkway” — hence the name Boardway — city officials said.
Citizens — 56 percent of 100 people — chose the boardwalk design after seeing displays of both concepts at a March open house, said Sharon Flissar, director of the city’s public works department. A similar session had been held in November 2019.
At a City Council work session last week, Flissar and her staff recommended that the City Council adopt the best of both worlds, the boardway concept.
“The recommended boardway concept, an amalgamation of the two, takes the boardwalk concept that the public favored and added water harvesting,” Flissar said. “The revised concept took nothing away from the Boardwalk concept. Water harvesting was just added to it.”
The improvement area is West Fry Boulevard, from North Garden Avenue to Seventh Street, and parts of North Garden Avenue. The current phase one will impact a small portion of North Garden Avenue and West Fry Boulevard from North Garden Avenue to Carmichael Avenue, city officials said.
According to city officials, the parkway design was “defined by the linearity of its parts: the multi-use path maintains a 10-foot width for pedestrian travel and is protected from traffic in nearly all locations by water harvesting swales.”
“The plantings in the swales will provide shade for pedestrians and accentuate Fry Boulevard by creating a cohesive sense of space. In select locations, the parkway design includes mid-block crossings that will enhance the user experience by connecting pedestrians to businesses in a safer and more convenient way than Fry Boulevard is today. The parkway option includes minimal median landscaping, serving as pedestrian buffers at mid-block crossings.”
Best of both worlds
The boardwalk concept meanwhile, was described as “a design that dedicates the maximum available space to pedestrians while offering the flexibility of on-street parking, landscaped areas, and opportunities for pedestrian amenities such as public art, signage, business amenities, and more.”
“In the boardwalk design, bicyclists will travel along the pedestrian area in a marked, unbroken bike lane. The Boardwalk option includes landscaping in the median, which breaks to allow for dedicated turn lanes.”
City officials said the majority of the public who attended the March 4 open house favored the boardwalk concept.
As in the November session, the public was encouraged to provide written comments on both designs.
Flissar said the comments showed a “strong desire to incorporate water harvesting, as shown in the parkway concept. The consultant was able to find a way to combine the two concepts.”
That combination will turn the West End into an area that accommodates “all modes of transportation,” said Mayor Rick Mueller, who along with other council members, lauded the boardway idea at the work session last week.
Public weighs in
“Comments collected at the open house showed that the public wanted the larger pedestrian area that included off-street bicycle lanes proposed in the boardwalk concept but were passionate about the rainwater collection system portrayed in the Parkway concept,” Mueller said, adding that Sierra Vista has earned accolades for progressive water conservation efforts, as well as its bicycle amenities and outdoor lifestyle.
“Blending the two concepts gives Sierra Vista the best of both designs that will result in a downtown environment that serves all modes of transportation.”
The boardway is also a good fit for longtime “West Ender” Rosie Mackey.
“Our whole objective is to bring visitors to the West End,” Mackey said. “Both those concepts are just awesome. Anything they choose is good with me.”
Mackey, a past chairperson of the West End Commission, also commended the City Council for being “good stewards” for Sierra Vista, and in particular, for this project.
“I’m just waiting for it (construction) to start,” Mackey said.
City officials have said the project is fully funded by federal and state dollars, awarded to Sierra Vista specifically for the improvement of West Fry Boulevard and North Garden Avenue.
The design phase of the project is expected to cost $400,000; about $2.35 million has been budgeted for the construction phase.
Since 2013, when the city launched the “Dream Your City” project, which sought public input for the Vista 2030: General Plan, residents have expressed the desire for a downtown area where they could walk to cafes, shops and entertainment.
The city, in conjunction with the Sierra Vista Metropolitan Planning Organization, is responsible for overseeing all phases of the project.
Sierra Vista has retained EPS Group, an engineering and design firm that specializes in streetscape renovation projects, and the Gordley Group, a communications firm that specializes in public communications for construction projects.
Length of delay
While the onset of COVID-19 could impact the start of construction on the project somewhat, it’s still not clear how much of a delay there’ll be, Flissar said.
“It is unknown at this time how the project might be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic,” Flissar said. “The city has asked ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) for a six-month extension, which would push completion out to mid-2021.”
“The completion date may change,” Flissar added, “because the pandemic isn’t over and we still don’t know the impact it will ultimately have.”
She said the next step, with city council approval, is to give the consultant a notice to proceed with the revised boardway concept.