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Winslow 'dream' is closer to reality

One Winslow Tomorrow project vision includes an expanded civic and cultural corridor near City Hall. This illustration shows a new artist and farmer pavilion on top of an underground parking garage built into the south slope of the existing park. - Courtesy of Winslow Tomorrow
One Winslow Tomorrow project vision includes an expanded civic and cultural corridor near City Hall. This illustration shows a new artist and farmer pavilion on top of an underground parking garage built into the south slope of the existing park.
— image credit: Courtesy of Winslow Tomorrow

The City Council OKs proposals for downtown planning and development.

Many of the 300 residents who participated on the Winslow Tomorrow project use the word “dream” a lot.

“The dream is to have a vibrant, vital, healthy downtown that feels very much as downtown does today, where there’s activity on the street, people living downtown, buying pretty much whatever they need downtown and having a fun place to go and hang out,” said Michael Read. “It’s a realization that we’re going to grow, but that we can do it right and grow gracefully.

“The dream is to make the most of it and produce a foundation so the new people that come here can contribute to realizing that dream.”

The dream came closer to reality Wednesday, when the City Council approved Winslow Tomorrow’s final recommendations, adapting them as a series of guidelines for future downtown planning and code changes.

The council also learned the possible price of making dreams come true. Some participants said it could cost $60 million over two decades. Others tossed out $100 million to $200 million estimates to improve streets, sidewalks and green spaces, build community facilities, boost parking and enhance public transportation.

Much of the funding would come from the city and private developers, but help could come from a 20 to 40 percent contribution in federal and state grants.

“This is no treasure map, it’s a road map,” said Chuck DePew, who helped craft the project’s financial estimates.

While praising the citizen-driven urban design initiative, some councilors said it’s time to get heads out of the clouds and feet firmly on the ground to ensure the project’s aims are realized.

“It’s all music to my ears,” said Councilman Bob Scales. “But the resolution falls a little short. The time for discussion is over. It’s time to start the process of revising codes.”

Some of the land use code changes recommended by Winslow Tomorrow include an increase in building densities in the downtown core and a boost in height allowances, past the four story cap in some areas. This would allow businesses to expand and be more profitable, while allowing more people to live downtown, participants said.

“The most important way to keep downtown vital is to get people to live there,” said Ryan Vancil, who helped craft Winslow Tomorrow’s recommendations.

Policy changes could also include more flexibility for parking requirements. Current regulations call for four parking spots per 1,000 square feet of retail space, which encourages a “strip-mall look,” Vancil said.

Under­ground parking centers and other measures could reduce the burden on individual property owners to provide on-site or street-level parking, according to participants.

Other policy changes include requiring sustainable, “green” building standards on all development that exceeds current permitted density and a host of incentives for developers to incorporate public amenities.

Using a “carrot and stick” approach, the city could trade increased density and development capacity for trails, gathering spaces, trees, views, preservation of historic structures and affordable housing.

Policy changes allowing for more development incentives “allows market forces to work and entices redevelopment simply by setting the stage to motivate (developers’) greed,” said participant and councilman-elect Kjell Stoknes.

Other recommendations include a series of improvements in downtown transportation, including new driveways and paths breaking up Winslow Way and adding routes for back-end delivery access. Public transportation would receive a boost with frequent bus service through downtown and a small ferry carrying residents across Eagle Harbor.

Some on the council want to see an expanded “Bainbridge Tomorrow” project that applies many of Winslow Tomorrow’s principles to the entire island.

“Island-wide growth needs to be done the same way,” said Councilman Nezam Tooloee. “We shouldn’t wait for Winslow Tomorrow to finish. It needs to be under way today.”

Bainbridge will have to grab the reins of the “large elephant” that looms outside of downtown, agreed Patrick Condon, a Winslow Tomorrow consultant and the University of British Columbia’s director of landscape architecture.

“It’s almost too late to prevent complete consumption,” he said.

But it’s not too late if Bainbridge takes hold of growth and applies the “culture created around Winslow Tomorrow to the rest of the island,” harnessing local “idealism and practicality” for an end result that could become the “envy of the nation.”

“You have the historic opportunity to become what you are rather than what others choose for you,” Condon said.

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