Final Winslow 'Congress' meets today

Proposals for downtown Winslow will be rolled out in a 9 a.m. presentation.

The guiding vision for downtown is finally coming into focus.

With over a year of committee meetings, forums, design workshops and presentations, Winslow Tomorrow has sharpened its lens on downtown and will offer a preliminary peek this morning during the project’s final congress convention.

“We’ve been looking at what makes Winslow special for a while now,” said Julie Shryock, who has facilitated various Winslow Tomorrow committees. “We all want it to develop with our values and what we love about this place. It’s the center of commerce, culture and community. But it’s more than that. It’s the island’s heartbeat.”

The project will make recommendations on how to keep the island’s heart thumping, with ways to spark investment, connect downtown to the harbor, reduce auto traffic and boost foot traffic.

“We’re really excited about getting enhanced connectivity downtown for all modes,” said Michael Read, a member of Winslow Tomorrow’s transportation committee. “We want to get a hold of our right-of-ways for pedestrians and preserve our informal network of pathways, which I think are pretty cool.”

Read helped craft recommendations that would earmark city capital funds to acquire property easements to preserve the footpaths that crisscross downtown.

These trails fit within a general push toward “access for all,” that will safely bring the elderly and impaired downtown without having to depend on motorized vehicles.

“People are getting older on Bainbridge and they naturally want to live closer to downtown and have access to services, especially when they can’t get around as easily,” he said.

Improved pedestrian amenities will also help attract families to downtown, improve safe access for kids, among other benefits, Read said.

“People will walk more, so it will be good for people’s health, the community will have more activity, less crime because more people will be out on the streets, and people will be more likely to bump into their neighbors.”

Increased gathering spots will mean neighbors will have a place to sit after the initial bump, said Shryock.

“When you’re downtown, we want there to be places every 20 feet or so that, when you see someone you know, you can pull off to the side and talk,” she said. “You need inviting places to sit and catch up. That’s not going to happen if you have to sit on the sidewalk.”

A good example of such a place is the corner outside Blackbird Bakery on Winslow Way, Shryock said, which features benches, an all-weather checkerboard, plants, wooden seats and tables.

“Most of the time, you see people gathered there and that’s healthy for the community to have that,” she said. “It’s face-to-face – not via Blackberry – and it’s the type of interchange that strengthens and binds communities.”

Winslow Tomorrow participants will recommend improvements for vehicles as well, including alleys off Winslow Way to allow easier access for delivery trucks, a connection between Hildebrand and Ericksen and even a Wyatt Way bridge crossing State Route 305.

“This would connect the neighborhoods to the east with Winslow, which is important because, right now, the only connections are on Winslow Way and High School Road, which are a mile apart,” said Read.

As downtown becomes more connected to outlying areas, local shops will buzz with activity, participants said. The hope is that this will strengthen the financial base for small, local businesses and create more island-based jobs.

Other recommended economic aids include a partnership between the city and business groups to manage aspects of downtown parking and revitalization efforts. The project will also suggest that the city develop a permanent budget to help implement Winslow Tomorrow’s long-term vision.

Winslow Tomorrow will present final recommendations to the City Council on Nov. 16, from 6-9 p.m. at City Hall.

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This morning

The Winslow Tomorrow project will hold its final Congress Convention today at the Pavilion on Madison Avenue. The event begins at 9 a.m. and recommendations will be presented starting at 9:50 a.m. The convention adjourns at noon. Call 780-3725 for more information.

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