More than a year after a task force was formed to find ways to improve downtown, chairman Alan Hirschfeld spoke to the North Platte city council Tuesday. Hirschfeld spoke at work session before the regular council meeting.
He said he is looking for new name for the downtown area.
An example of a name is “Haymarket” in Lincoln and “Old Market” in Omaha.
Hirschfeld owns and operates Hirschfeld’s clothing on the corner of Fourth and Dewey. Suggestions for a new name are welcome, he told the Bulletin.
The downtown task force was formed in July 2011 to clarify and prioritize goals and bring a downtown improvement plan forward, Mayor Marc Kaschke said. He told the task force to solicit outside evaluations as well as recommendations from residents, building owners and visitors, and gave them six months to put together a preliminary report.
Hirschfeld did not specifically mention that deadline Tuesday, but said the Nebraska Department of Roads plans to redo some infrastructure along U.S. Highway 83/Jeffers St. by next year and the task force hopes some of infrastructure along Fifth and Sixth can be redone at the same time.
He said sewers along Fifth and Sixth streets need to be replaced. A new trunk line is needed to relieve pressure on older sewer lines, which would also help relieve some of the pressure on the east end of North Platte.
Hirschfeld said downtown improvement funds could come from Community Development Block Grants in two phases. A small amount of money might be obtained for planning and a larger sum for improvements.
Application is underway for one of the planning grants, he said.
Hirschfeld besides considering infrastructure, streetscapes and grant funding, the task force is also working with consultant Roger Brooks to figure out how to attract more businesses, such as eating and drinking establishments, to utilize the downtown area and parking after regular business hours.
The goal is to have at least 10 places open after 6 p.m., he said.
Hirschfeld said the covered sidewalks on Dewey St. also present a challenge. City officials feel the covers are expensive and not essential.
The task force has discussed installing “period” awnings that would be more compatible with the historic architecture of individual buildings and reflective of the types of businesses inside. Hirschfeld said historical awnings could make Dewey St. more attractive.
Hirschfield urged the council to be involved with the task force. He said he’d spoken to several members and invited them to task force meetings, but they did not attend.
“Of course, we all have busy schedules,” he said.
The council members made little response.
After the meeting, Mayor Marc Kaschke said the improvement plan is not moving as fast as anyone would like, but progress is being made. He said the 10-member task force has a good understanding of the needs and infrastructure problems. A concept for funding is taking shape, Kaschke said.
"I am confident we will be able to continue to make improvements," he said.
The group's original members, many of whom are downtown property owners, are: Hirschfeld, Todd Bissell, Tim Brouillette, Lisa Debord, Scott Finney, Rick Kolkman, Leland Poppe, Kim Schroll, Darrel Smith, Joe Staroska, Daren Wilkinson and Don Kurre.
North Platte Planning and Zoning Administrator Judy Clark as well as North Platte Area Chamber and Development President Dan Mauk will be ex-officio (non-voting) members of the task force, Kaschke said when he made the announcement.
Bulletin Editor George Lauby contributed to this report.