Downtown Hastings Ahead of the Curve as Master Plan Unveiled
By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
Downtown Hastings is the kind of place friends bump into each other for an unplanned lunch together.
"I was downtown running errands and hadn't had lunch and this is one of the things I think of, Back Alley Bakery," Bobbi Burke said.
Lenora Smith said, "I didn't know she was here, walked in, said let's sit together."
While other communities struggle with businesses and customers moving away from downtown to malls and suburban areas, a new study finds Hastings is "ahead of the curve".
Retailer Tammy Orthmann said the area has unique services and shops "that you're not going to find in the mall or national chain stores."
Downtown Hastings contributes $23 million to the local economy. But the study finds seven or eight projects that could serve as catalysts for the future.
Randy Chick, head of the Business Improvement District said, "We hope to get a couple of projects out of these, identify a few local investors willing to put money into buildings if there's some financial assistance through grant program."
People who live downtown spend four times as much there.
Plus there's vacant space on upper levels, where they envision ten more apartments, where landlords could earn a premium.
Chick said, "Any more residential we get is a big plus for merchants as well."
Unique shops like Bath Bliss Gifts that Orthmann run have become a destination, along with a growing number of specialty restaurants like Back Alley Bakery.
But the study by Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture says downtown could use a gateway sign for visitors to see. Plus the area lacks the branding of Lincoln's Haymarket or Kearney's "on the bricks."
Retailers like Tammy Orthmann say they appreciate the feedback.
"You need to step back from your business and look at the community and look at the wants and needs of the community and not be so isolated. Very important," she said.
Randy Chick says the next phase brings a modest $350,000 in funding.
"We're just hoping to snag a couple of projects out of that," he said.
The "Downtown Revitalization Plan" casts a long range vision, while also finding a strong sense of loyalty from customers like Bobbi and Lenora.
"Helps keep our community going," Lenora said, enjoying a sandwich from Back Alley Bakery.
Add five to eight residential units on the second level along with 11,000 square feet of retail space Elevator required, plus plumbing and mechanical improvements
Exterior facade could cost $130,000
Area adjacent to City Auditorium could be upgraded to host more events Temporary fencing to serve alcohol Utility hook-ups for electrical service to a stage area Possible "entertainment district ordinance" to encourage more entertainment events
Block 24 East end of downtown core could be renovated. This includes two buildings at the corner of St. Joseph and 2nd Street Report says buildings "in their current state, create an eyesore"
The public parking lot north of City Hall could serve as "flex space"
Could provide a "vast, centrally located" place for large events
Would require tall grasses and mulch or rock groundcover
Public restroom building that "some consider a blight" could be renovated for ADA restrooms to use for public events
Downtown could use a gateway sign at 2nd and Burlington to invite traffic off Burlington into downtown
Way-finding signs could also help people get around downtown
Kiosks with maps
Public Parking Landscaping Parking lots can "be a potential eyesore" if not kept up
Add buffers with landscaping
Since "all roads lead downtown", the city could create a trail head marker for the start of thE Pioneer Spirit bike trail
Provide structure for shade and parking stalls
Streetscaping on 1st Street
With a number of restaurants and bars on 1st Street, the area could add landscaping and art installations
Create an identity specific to 1st Street as an entertainment destination
Burlington and 2nd Intersection
Review timing of the crosswalk indicator
Add "soft-scaping" so passing traffic will realize they are crossing main street.
Quiet Zone In 2003, the city conducted a railroad quiet zone study
Branding Downtown could use a defined image, like Lincoln's "Haymarket", Omaha's "Old Market", or Kearney's "On the Bricks"
This would require research, graphic design, and education for businesses