Grass Valley mulls Mill Street future: More than $2M could be used to convert the street to an outdoor market
Pedestrians mill about Mill and Main Streets in downtown Grass Valley during a Saturday in March, taking advantage of the pedestrian only road closure enacted along Mill Street to help downtown merchants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grass Valley City Council will discuss the future of the Mill Street closure during its April 13 meeting. | Photo: Elias Funez
As business restrictions loosen in Nevada County and COVID-19 cases wane across the state, Grass Valley is looking to plan for its post-pandemic future now.
At its next meeting, scheduled for April 13, the Grass Valley City Council will discuss the future of Mill Street and how to spend an estimated $2.41 million coming its way from the American Rescue Act.
The city first closed part of Mill Street to vehicle traffic in response to the pandemic last summer, further extending the closure in September and again in January.
At the meeting, the council could decide to close the street to traffic permanently, extend the closure, or revert back to normal operations.
“The business owners I talked to, whether they’re for or against, they just want us to make a decision,” Vice Mayor Jan Arbuckle said. “It’s incumbent on us to be respectful of that and not keep kicking the can down the road.“
While the move was mostly popular with the public, according to City Manager Tim Kiser, some business owners and residents have complained about parking and delivery issues as well as a lack of walkability.
During next month’s meeting the council will also consider a request for proposal it put out in January showing what a permanently closed Mill Street might look like, and what other changes would be required to accommodate it.
In the same meeting, the city will use the Mill Street decision to help determine how to spend the $2.41 million it’s expected to receive from the federal government.
A preliminary plan suggested at the council’s Tuesday meeting would reserve $2 million for converting Mill Street to a permanent pedestrian outdoor market and about $300,000 for constructing parklets along Main Street.
The remaining funds would be used for smaller, immediate needs like umbrellas, street furniture, and marketing.
Kiser emphasized the initial plan is only a jumping off point.
If the council went forward with the street closure, the project proposal would then go through a lengthy process where the public and stakeholders could continue to provide input, he said.
Funds from the $1.9 trillion plan can be used for responding to the coronavirus pandemic. This includes providing assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits; aiding impacted industries; providing government services that were reduced because of revenue loss from the pandemic; and investing in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
It can also be used to provide “premium“ pay to government workers who are performing essential work, or grants to employers whose employees are performing essential work.
However, Kiser indicated the city is not likely to use the funds for premium pay.
“I’m committed to keeping the staff we have and not fluctuate as revenues fluctuate,” he said. “We were hit as a community and I think these funds should go back in a one-time purpose for the benefit of our community.”
The funds are expected to reach cities 60 days after signing, which took place earlier this month.
“I think it’s really important we take the innovation that we had to have, and move it into the innovation we want to have,” Councilwoman Hilary Hodge said.
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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