Getting centered in Nevada City: Group revitalizes effort to create a town center | TheUnion.com

Getting centered in Nevada City: Group revitalizes effort to create a town center

Commercial Street is one option being considered as the future site of a proposed town center in Nevada City.

A town center brings a community together, some say, and that idea has lead cities around the world to close streets to vehicle traffic in an effort to create lively spaces for people to connect.

Stroget, a street in Copenhagen, Denmark was converted to a pedestrian-only zone in 1962 and features a variety of shops and restaurants. In 1965, Santa Monica closed three blocks to vehicle traffic and created the Third Street Promenade, a popular shopping and dining destination. In 1976, four city blocks in Boulder, Colorado, were transformed into the Pearl Street Mall, a pedestrian walkway with gardens and benches surrounded by restaurants and storefronts.

An effort to add Nevada City to the list of places around the world with lively town centers has been in the works for years, and has recently been revitalized by a new group, Future of Nevada County.

The group focuses on getting young adults involved in local government. Member Johan Ehde said carrying on the effort to create a town center in Nevada City is the perfect opportunity for the group to jump in and get involved.

“We’re open to anything. It’s an exciting conversation and we hope to get input from the community.”

— Johan Ehde

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The group is planning an upcoming town hall meeting in hopes of gathering perspectives, ideas and concerns on how a town center might look.

Robinson Plaza, which includes an open, public space and outdoor seating near the intersection of Coyote and Commercial Streets in Nevada City, isn't meeting the mark for a town center, as far as the group is concerned, Ehde said.

He envisions a centralized space, surrounded by restaurants and retail businesses, where people can eat outdoors, shop and hang out in the middle of the action downtown.

The existing plaza "provides a limited definition of what a town square can be," said group member Ali Stefancich.

Members of the group have attended recent Nevada City council meetings and have gained support from the city for their upcoming events.

On Nov. 3, Future of Nevada County will host a town hall at the Miner's Foundry, which will include panel discussions from community stakeholders on the proposed town center. The event — which is free and open to the public — is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and will be followed by a fundraiser concert at the Foundry beginning at 8 p.m.

Proceeds from concert ticket sales to will go toward funding an official traffic study to outline the potential impacts of a town center on downtown Nevada City's streets, according to Ehde. The money will also be used to host public workshops on the topic and pay designers to create mock-ups of the project for consideration, he said.

Charles Durrett, of McCammant & Durrett Architects, has pioneered an effort to convert Commercial Street into a pedestrian-only walkway. During the Yuba Village Building Convergence, which shut down Commercial Street to vehicle traffic for three days in June, Durrett conducted a study which tallied the number of cars and number of pedestrians that used the street over a two-day period.

Durrett interviewed community members, asking whether they thought a town center on Commercial Street would be a success, and said he received a plethora of positive feedback.

Durrett said he's excited for Future of Nevada County to take the reigns on the effort.

Ehde said the group is considering Commercial Street as a possibility for its proposed town center, but isn't attached to the location.

North Pine Street has also been proposed as the possible site of a town center in recent years, and a traffic study was conducted to determine whether it would be a fitting location. Ehde said the group is looking closely at that possibility, too.

"We're open to anything," said Ehde. "It's an exciting conversation and we hope to get input from the community."

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.

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