Friday, November 17, 2006

Ketchum eyes plan to rename streets

Express Staff Writer

Under a proposal being submitted by a task force working to improve downtown Ketchum, East Avenue, center, would be renamed Knob Hill Avenue. Photo by David N. Seelig

Longtime locals can usually find their way around Ketchum without giving too much thought to street names.

Newcomers and visitors, however, often find themselves at a loss when attempting to locate something at First and First or the south end of East Avenue or the north part of Third Avenue.

The city of Ketchum is reviewing "wayfinding," or how people who don't know where they're going get to where they need to go. The idea sprang out of the downtown master plan process, which seeks to revitalize downtown.

"It's very fair to say that for the vast majority of retail- and office-related businesses in the downtown, the current level of business is inadequate," said economic development consultant Tom Hudson. "We want and we need more. People like many of us are highly confused for the lack of wayfinding downtown. There's very limited directional signage. The street and avenue naming is counter-logical."

Hudson spearheaded the master plan process and is now under contract to head the city's Community Development Corporation, which is working to implement some of the plan's goals.

"Start with Spruce and Walnut," Hudson said. "You might think they would follow with Ash. But it's East (Avenue). Then there's Leadville. Leadville is a historic name, but then there's Main. If we're really going to be oriented to the people we want to come here, we need a better system."

Renaming some of the avenues, better directional signs and creating identity in the core's quarters could be part of the solution.

The city wanted to involve the downtown task force "because they're the ones who work there and who hear from customers about getting around," said Mayor Randy Hall.

The task force is made up of representatives of the business community, the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau and the city. The group has been meeting once a week for the past couple months to hammer out criteria recommendations.

"The idea was to make wayfinding easier," said Carol Waller, the chamber's executive director. "The intent is to make it better for all of the city and not to make it negatively impact anyone."

The group came up with a list of criteria that is activity neutral, not related to any specific business group, is user-friendly, thematic, and based on history, geography or landmarks.

"If there's some logic to it, will it be an enhancement or won't it?" Waller asked. "That's up to debate."

The task force arrived at the following suggestions:

- East Avenue should be renamed Knob Hill Avenue because when standing on that street looking north that's what one sees.

- First Avenue could be renamed Griffin Butte Avenue for the same reason.

- Second Avenue could be called Ketchum Avenue.

- The south end of Third Avenue could become an extension of Sun Valley Road. The north end could become an extension of Hideaway Lane.

- Fourth Avenue could become Bird Drive.

The committee is recommending that Sun Valley Road be extended through Ketchum, replacing Third Avenue.

The task force also came up with ideas for naming quarters of the downtown area "so they have some sort of sense of place, so they become their own neighborhoods," Waller said.

The task force came up with the following suggestions:

- The southeast quadrant of the city could be called Trail Creek.

- The southwest quadrant could be Heritage Park.

- The northwest could be named Hemingway

-The area of Giacobbi Square could be called Harriman, with the desire that the Interim Town Plaza become "Harriman Square."

"This is just a beginning," Waller said. "The city is going to want a lot of input. I'm sure there'll be a lot of revisions, and that's good."

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