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Webster Street gets vision thing

Submitted by on 1, June 3, 2010 – 5:00 am4 Comments

The city is underwriting fresh efforts to revitalize the Webster Street commercial district. A team of consultants is meeting with West End stakeholders to get their input this week, and public meetings are scheduled for mid-July.

Barry Long of Urban Design Associates – who is also working with the city on its downtown Civic Center plan – said consultants will seek to build on planning work done by two other firms in 2005 in their effort to help plot the street’s future course. Their plan is to gather public input in their quest to stitch the separate sections of Webster together – from the Tubes to Crab Cove – and to find catalyst development projects that can help quickly jump-start a revival.

He said Webster Street has four distinct areas: the stretch coming out of the Tubes, which he said had a “campus feel”; a four-block stretch with predominantly auto uses; the four-block main commercial district; and an area the consultants called a “gateway” to Crab Cove.

“The traditional Main Street is well-loved and has a lot of terrific uses,” Long said.

Participants in one visioning session on Wednesday, who included a small group of West End business owners and residents, said they like the safety of Alameda and the quality of the strip’s commercial buildings, and they’re happy with recent efforts to beautify Webster Street, including a banner program and a citywide façade grant program.

But they said efforts to improve the street face stumbling blocks as well, one being the city’s planning process. The owner of a gas station on Webster said he is negotiating with the city over parking and setback requirements and that they have asked him to retain an historian in order to have the gas station removed from a list of historic buildings. He said it cost him several thousand dollars just to talk to the city.

Participants in the session The Island attended said they want to enhance Webster Street’s existing efforts to attract both residents from the surrounding neighborhood and out-of-town visitors, including people working with local companies and the thousands of people who visit the Alameda once a month for the Antique and Collectibles Faire at Alameda Point.

They said they’d like to see better transit availability, bicycle access and parking, more restaurants and new businesses in spots like Neptune Plaza. They noted recent losses like Tillie’s and Acquacotta, though the latter space is expected to soon be home to a restaurant that will offer live entertainment at night.

A public Webster Street Visioning open house will be held at 6 p.m. July 13 at Otaez Mexican Restaurant, 1619 Webster Street. And at 7 p.m. July 15, the Planning Board and Economic Development Commission will hold a joint meeting to discuss the visioning process and to receive an update on the long-stalled Alameda Landing project. That meeting will also be held at Otaez.

Consultants said they expect the City Council will get a presentation on the visioning process in September.

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