(Shary Skiles/McCook Daily Gazette)
The City of McCook has hired RDG Planning and Design of Omaha, using funds from Phase I of the grant, to lead the process of determining the best way to use the Phase II implementation grant money.
Amy Haase, RDG Project Manager, and Marty Shukert, RDG Project Principal, walked through the process that RDG would use to help McCook determine objectives, define opportunities, and set goals. Earlier in the day, Haase and Shukert met with stakeholders including high school and college students, young professionals, and retailers in the identified blighted downtown area to begin to establish collaboration and better understand the dynamics of the community.
Haase told those gathered that one of the first steps toward defining the objectives of the project was to define the basic assets of the area, the stores, services, and events that would take place there. She further broke the assets down into tangible assets such as safety, upkeep, cleanliness and convenience and intangible assets such as image, reputation, and the overall experience of visiting downtown.
Some of the assets that have been identified so far include the major accomplishments that have already happened, such as the Keystone Business Center renovation; the great architecture in the existing buildings; the "urban green" spaces; the solid main street economics; and the notable people who make up McCook's history.
Haase told the group that they would be looking at setting up both short and long term goals. She made an analogy to gears on a car, stating that just as you can't start a car in third gear, there may be a need to identify some "first gear" projects to get the ball rolling.
After the overview, small groups of attendees were given an assignment to identify three or four improvements that would be the most beneficial for the designated area, and to determine how each group would spend roughly $400,000 on either one project or multiple efforts.
The groups' ideas included a variety of projects, including development of the old Post Office on Norris Avenue into retail or convention space; adding planters, benches, or banners to downtown; improving lighting both functionally and aesthetically; development of second floor housing in the downtown area; filling retail voids and bringing empty buildings up to code; improving city parking areas to make them more inviting and easier to use; signage to direct visitors to various retail attractions in the downtown area; a splash park and fire-pit area where family could congregate; and a trolley-like shuttle service up and down Norris Avenue.
RDG is encouraging more public input, asking citizens to take an online survey by visiting www.rdgusa.com/crp/mccook.
The RDG team will analyze the data, interviews, and public discussion they have gathered and will return on Oct. 23 to lead a design studio from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The design studio will allow participants to work alongside planners, landscape architects, and artists to design projects for improving downtown. A public presentation will be made on Oct. 24 at 5:15 p.m.