Commissioners, citizens get peek at draft Downtown Master Plan
How can Matthews encourage people who drive through downtown to stop and shop?
That’s one question addressed in the town’s draft Downtown Master Plan, which town commissioners and citizens previewed this week.
At the Matthews Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, July 9, Senior Planner Jay Camp gave a presentation updating town commissioners and citizens on the draft Downtown Master Plan to create a more attractive, economic downtown area. The planning board will hear the presentation on July 24 and a formal public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10. Camp said a drop-in informational meeting for residents will be held in August. A date has not been set.
“This plan, the best way to categorize it would be to (say) it’s evolutionary, not revolutionary,” Camp said. “It’s something that we feel is good for the town but we hope there are not any wild … things that people would be uncomfortable with.”
When designing and tweaking the plan, staff examined the downtown areas of other communities similar to Matthews. Organizationally, they felt it was best to split the downtown area into at least four focal points and address issues like road connections, parking, housing and location of future developments for each focal point.
The idea, Camp said, is not to attract more people to the downtown area. It’s about making the area attractive enough that people want to stop. According to Camp, the main goals of the plan are: land use; urban design and development character; transportation and parking; pedestrian and public interactive space; and economic development and quality of life.
“We have a problem that many downtowns would love to have,” he said. “We have too many people driving through downtown Matthews. We just need more of them to stop and shop and go to restaurants.”
One of the main changes the draft plan calls for is to redesign the intersection of Matthews Street and North Trade Street as a focal point within the downtown area.
“There could be some very quality development in our downtown that connects that area near N.C. 51 back to our traditional downtown area,” Camp said.
The Market Alley section along the 100 block of Trade Street also is an area scheduled for a major facelift. Plans call for the creation of a pedestrian alleyway to bisect the “superblock” near downtown, providing a more pedestrian-friendly area. Other proposed changes include major development of underused land between Trade Street and the U.S. Post Office and the addition of housing, office, retail and parking in that area.
Other recommendations include creating better connectivity between the downtown and future developments, such as Wingate Commons and the sportsplex; infusing housing opportunities and improving parking for the Matthews Station area; establishing a distinct new neighborhood within the North end of the downtown area; and adding residential housing around Stumptown Park. Connectivity between the entire downtown area, especially concerning pedestrians, would be revamped as well.
Camp said planners are tying up loose ends with the plan, which mainly includes developing the design guidelines supplemental document and finalizing graphics and updates to maps. And of course, public opinion is highly valued, he said.
“I think that’s really where the rubber’s going to meet the road as far as what do people really want the new buildings to look like in downtown. How tall do they want them, what are the building materials, what are the uses, things like that,” he said.
Want to see the plan?
To see the Downtown Master Plan draft, visit www.matthewsnc.com/Departments/PlanningandDevelopment.aspx.