The idea of constructing a Ketchum downtown town plaza received unanimous support from the city's Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday, but the commissioners had words of advice about the design.
The land for the one-third-acre town plaza is a city-owned lot between the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau headquarters and Giaccobi Square, two-thirds of which serves as parking for 17 vehicles. Parking loss was one point of contention.
The parking lot would be eliminated to create the plaza, designed mostly for open space allowing for versatility of uses.
"We're providing the frame and canvas," said Dale Bates, leader of the design team comprised of Ketchum Community Development Corp. board members, city staff and citizen volunteers, many of whom are architects and landscape designers. "What to do with that canvas is up to the community to paint."
Bates said the majority of the project—estimated to cost between $400,000 and $500,000—would be funded by donations, but the City Council has pledged to offer some support. How much is uncertain. Bates said $100,000 has been donated, but $250,000 more is needed just to start construction in May for the planned ribbon cutting on July 2.
Some design elements would be a raised platform with steps for performances, a fountain, fire pit, lighting, trees, tables, benches, areas for temporary vendors and LeRoy's Ice Cream, already located on the northern end of the property.
Designers proposed three parking-compensation options along the alley and East Avenue, providing either 11 or 16 parking spaces. The design team said the city would also have the option of 26 spaces if they use the open space of the plaza for parking during events requiring a plethora of parking.
Commissioner Michael Doty said that last option isn't even an option. Tire marks and oil drips on the plaza's pavers would be contrary to the plaza's intended uses.
But, city planner Mark Goodman said Ketchum Code doesn't require that a plaza meet a standard number of parking places, only that it present a parking solution that the P&Z approves.
Commissioner Steve Cook said he doesn't care if the area loses six parking places because a plaza will bring people to downtown for events and therefore customers to businesses.
Commissioner Deborah Burns expressed the opposite opinion, saying parking losses would hurt area businesses.
Like the P&Z, community members at Monday's meeting were split on the issue of lost parking.
Peter Everett, Mountain Rides Transportation Authority board chairman, asked, "Cities—are they for cars or people?"
He said people don't visit places where they need a car to get around. They go to Disney World.
"Sadly, when we talk about transportation, it's always about cars and parking," he said, later adding, "To me, losing an ugly asphalt parking lot and a few parking spaces is a price worth paying."
The P&Z also wrestled over the issue of grass, little of which is included in the plaza's design. The open space in front of the stage would be covered in pavers, like those at Sun Valley Village.
Commissioner Rich Fabiano said pavers require a lot of labor and would need to be ripped up in about five years if the plan of putting underground parking there comes to fruition. Everything on the plaza needs to be moveable or cheap to replace, in preparation for that.
"There's nothing like sitting on nice green grass during a concert," Fabiano added.
But, Bates said, lawns requires more upkeep and a sprinkler system.
"We've been going back and forth on that," Bates said. "We don't know if we got it right."
He said the design team is hoping to get some direction from the P&Z. But, he said, the design chosen still won't be final. The plaza will evolve over time depending on uses.
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