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First Friday

People gather in May on Monument Square during a First Friday event. The city is looking into redesigning Downtown and Monument Square based on recommendations from a 2011 traffic study and feedback from tourism adviser Roger Brooks. 

RACINE — The city is looking into revamping Downtown Racine and Monument Square in an effort to make the area more inviting for residents and visitors.

In a request for proposals that was released last month, city officials state they are seeking a multidisciplinary urban design team to do a traffic design for Downtown Main Street, a Downtown parking strategy and redesign of Monument Square, “all of which will work together to promote our Downtown as a welcoming destination, a place to arrive and stay, a thriving business and cultural center and a place to call home.”

City officials have budgeted $150,000 for the traffic and parking design and $50,000 for redesigning Monument Square.

By the April 18 deadline, the city had received 14 responses. City staff will review the applications over the next three to four weeks, conduct interviews with three or four applicants and then make a final recommendation.

Monument Square redesign

As a basis for the RFP parameters, city officials used feedback from a 2011 parking study and from tourism adviser Roger Brooks, who visited Racine County in 2017.

In 2005, the city spent $1.5 million to redesign Monument Square to its current configuration, removing grass and a fountain to create more space for activities.

But Brooks said the space is still not being used to its full potential and advised the city to prioritize redesigning the space. Some suggestions from Brooks included removing the parking spaces and bollards between the square and storefronts and installing more greenery, seating and activities.

“Your plaza has to be about people,” Brooks wrote in his report. “Right now this space is pretty, but unused, because there are no benches or things to do. It could easily be converted into an active space that people like to use and spend their free time.”

The RFP also requests accommodation of a skating rink, splash pad, spaces for outdoor dining or outdoor use by businesses, and connection to the lakefront and Sam Johnson Parkway.

Traffic and parking plans

One of the major goals with the project is to address parking issues in Downtown Racine.

The City Council has had several debates over the years about the best way to balance supply and demand of parking spaces between visitors, employees and Downtown residents.

One option the RFP suggests is to explore Smart City options, such as dynamic demand pricing (in which different rates would be in place at different times and/or during events), cash-free payment, remote detection and enforcement systems and license plate-based enforcement and their cost-effectiveness.

The RFP also requests the traffic plan contain Smart City technologies, such as accommodations for autonomous vehicles. The plan should also address that with two lanes of traffic and parallel parking, “this makes for a pace of traffic flow that is not always compatible with safe or comfortable pedestrian or bicycle traffic.”

One idea listed for consideration would be reducing the number of lanes on Main Street, forcing traffic to slow down.

The RFP also mentioned incorporating any ornamentation such as the proposed archways into the plan.

“Your plaza has to be about people. Right now this space is pretty, but unused because there are no benches or things to do. It could easily be converted into an active space that people like to use and spend their free time.” Roger Brooks, travel consultant speaking about Monument Square

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Reporter

Christina Lieffring covers the City of Racine and the City of Burlington and is a not-bad photographer. In her spare time she tries to keep her plants and guinea pigs alive and happy.

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