Well, the neighborhood got a glimpse of the future of Foster this week…sort of. The PDC, through its Foster Lents Integration Partnership (FLIP), which includes various city and community groups, presented an overview of the Foster Corridor Investment Strategy this last Wednesday to the neighborhood. Designed to introduce the process and the various projects included in it, the open house presentation raised many questions about how the city intends to spur growth, improve traffic/pedestrian safety, and recruit/retain businesses along Foster Road. Unfortunately, only few of those questions were answered, as the PDC, PBOT, FLIP, and the Foster Green EcoDistrict are still figuring out how to coordinate with each other and decipher what the community needs and wants.
Naturally, the Foster Streetscape Plan was of particular interest to those in attendance, and PBOT remained firm on their time line for construction to begin in 2014 (remember that folks, because while we’ve resigned ourselves to not speeding up the process, we should hold the city to expectations they’ve established and assured us of). Prior to construction, PBOT has to complete a draft plan and get it adopted by city council. Their timeline calls for 10-12 months of planning, followed by presenting a draft plan to city council in 2013. In that time frame, PBOT must conduct outreach and seek community input, refresh the original streetscape plan, design project elements, and complete engineering studies. To get the input it seeks, as well as the support they’ll need from the community, PBOT will be establishing a “stakeholders advisory committee” to help refresh the original plan. When asked when they anticipate that committee to be formed, PBOT acknowledged the willingness of the residents to participate, but they must gain participation from the business community, too. Then, it was implied that those efforts haven’t yet been the greatest, and they won’t pursue it much until the fall. If that’s the case, it presumably impacts the stated goal of completing the planning process within 10-12 months. While the PBOT rep indicated summer is a tough time to reach out to businesses, I suspect there are many business owners ready and willing to provide their input now. Hopefully this happens sooner than later, and we all have an opportunity to make formal and effective input into the process, business owners and residents alike.
A few more notes from the meeting:
– The PDC guided a walking tour through the “heart of Foster” to show off the potential of the district, as well as to get some resident feedback. A lot of great ideas came out of it, such as ways to make better use of the alleyways, what types of businesses to target and encourage setting up shop in the neighborhood, reducing lanes and other traffic calming measures, and adding more bike facilities.
– Unfortunately, the tour was limited to 20 people, and although there were well more than that in attendance in the open house, that limit was enforced and the 4 additional people who showed up were actually denied. Fortunately, the tour was on “my way home,” so I didn’t look to conspicuous as I tagged along. Hopefully the others were able to blend in, too…if not, it’s not the best PR move to turn people away in the midst of community engagement.
– Thanks to Kelsey at Pieper Café for staying open late that evening to welcome the tour and show off her digs. She was selected as a local business owner to talk about why she started a business on Foster and what the process was like. She also answered questions and discussed ideas with folks on the tour. If you haven’t already, make sure to visit, as she makes good coffee and sandwiches, and it’s important we support local business.
– There will be a follow up meeting/open house hosted by the PDC/PBOT/FLIP triumvirate in the fall. There’s a lot that can happen in that time, so please find ways to get involved.