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Homewood trustees applaud, approve new downtown plan

Homewood trustees saw much to like in the new Downtown Transit-Oriented Development Plan, and said so as they approved it on Tuesday, April 23, following a presentation of the plan by representatives of Muse Community + Design.

The project, funded by the Regional Transportation Authority, was led by Muse staffers Kelsey Zlevor, senior associate, and Fiona Kennedy, associate. They told trustees community and stakeholder participation shaped the plan’s vision.

Kennedy outlined the various methods the community was involved in the planning process, and Zlevor followed with a description of feedback from participants and recommendations based on their views.

“This really was a grassroots effort. The community has been involved every step of the way,” Zlevor said.
That involvement included four meetings with an 11-member steering committee of volunteers and two focus group meetings. Muse also had representatives at four community gatherings to talk with residents about their preferences and ideas for downtown Homewood. They met residents at the July 2023 Gotts Chalk the Walk chalk art event, Fall Fest, an open house at GoodSpeed Cycle and a meeting of the Homewood Business Association.

Zlevor described four perspectives on the downtown area: arrival, with a focus on the train station but also looking at other gateways to the area; navigation, or how people get around downtown once they’ve arrived; enjoyment, what people do while spending time downtown; and investment, which looks at development and redevelopment opportunities.

The arrive and navigate sections include recommendations for making it easier to get to and get around the downtown area, Zlevor said.

“We heard from many people that it wasn’t easy to arrive downtown on foot or by bike, so a lot of the recommendations are focused on that perspective,” she said.

The plan includes suggestions for how to improve access through the Dixie Highway and 183rd Street viaducts, improve the pedestrian and bike networks, add decorative crosswalks and update the wayfinding system.

The enjoyment section received quite a few recommendations from people who participated in the planning process, Zlevor said. It involved looking at the aesthetics of the downtown area, including signage, branding and identity. Recommendations included improving streetscaping, creating inviting open spaces, increasing the efficiency of existing parking, expanding public art and building the capacity of the Homewood Business Association.

Mayor Rich Hofeld welcomed the plan but tempered his enthusiasm.

“I’ve gone over this, and there are some out of the world type ideas here,” he said. “A lot of creativity went into this. Is it doable? Some of it is, some of it is way beyond what we’re able to do.”

Trustee Julie Willis offered a bigger embrace.

“I want it all,” she said.

Trustee Anne Colton expressed admiration for the way the consultants could so accurately grasp the community’s culture, and she thanked staff and the consultants for the efforts to involve the community in the process.

Trustees Jay Heiferman, Vivian Harris-Jones, Allisa Opyd and Lauren Roman each expressed enthusiasm for the process and the product.

“All of Mayor Hofeld’s off the wall ideas are probably my favorites,” Roman said.

The plan was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission at its April 11 meeting.

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