Downtown consultant preaches positive attitude during construction
Scott Day says 'glass half full' approach is needed
FARMINGTON — A downtown revitalization expert is encouraging downtown stakeholders to keep their chins up during a major overhaul of Farmington’s West Main Street.
Scott Day of Urban Development Services told downtown stakeholders on Wednesday that a positive attitude will play an important role in the city of Farmington’s Complete Streets Project, which some downtown stakeholders are concerned will be a lengthy inconvenience to businesses and patrons during construction.
“The whole mindset here is the glass is half full. It’s not going empty; it’s not half empty,” Day said. “If we stand back and grumble about the construction, everyone’s going to have a real sour look on their face at the end of the day. We can’t do that and expect to be in business. You guys have to go out there — you’re on the front line, and no matter how miserable things may be, you gotta project a good image to your customers, because they are your lifeblood.”
The project is still in the planning phases, though the city has settled on plans to expand sidewalks and add bike lanes to increase pedestrian traffic, and to reduce Main Street to a two-lane road and add roundabouts to slow vehicle traffic.
Complete Streets project manager Sherry Roach said construction could begin in spring 2019 at the earliest, and plans have not been defined as to whether construction will close the entire 10-block stretch that has been targeted for improvement.
Day recommended that downtown businesses use their front entrance as much as possible during construction.
City officials have been working with business owners to make back entrances more accessible and appealing for customers to use during and after construction. However, Day recommended the city plan construction so front entrances and limited sidewalks are accessible as much as possible throughout the project.
“My thought on the alleys (and back entrances) is that this become the exception rather than the norm,” Day said.
Roach said the city will go forward with the Art in the Alleys project, an initiative in which the city will contract with local and regional artists to design and create alley murals on more than a dozen downtown buildings.
“We’re proceeding with all of the alley beautification (plans). Those are permanent improvements,” Roach said after Day’s presentation, adding that the alley beautification is part of a holistic approach to downtown revitalization. “You want to have that connectivity between the surface parking lots, the back door, the alleys, the side streets and Main Street. Why gold plate Main Street and not do anything on the side streets?”
Day also presented several suggestions to help downtown stakeholders navigate the transition period, including giving customer service staff members public relations training on answering customer questions about the project, and having them participate in seminars that focus on online and social media sales and marketing to help businesses during construction.
“Those are the kind of things I really would like you guys to start focusing on internally in your business, but go ahead and lean on the Main Street program to help organize and help broker those services for you in the next year,” Day said. “Now’s the time to be doing this.”
Artist Chris Cook, who works at a studio in the Artifacts Gallery, attended the stakeholders meeting and said he’s concerned about construction discouraging downtown visitors. But he believes the project will be worth it.
“As it is now, there are not a lot of people that come downtown anyway. At Artifacts, I’ve been there for two years, and it’s amazing to me how many people come in and say, ‘I didn’t even know this was here,’ and they’ve lived in Farmington their whole life,” Cook said, adding that he’s excited about the project. “I really want to see it done. I think it will be good for Farmington.”
Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.