South Hill Business Development
a. Implement Business Retention/Expansion/Recruitment
Sections D1 and D2 described business retention and recruitment activities for Downtown. Similar issues exist on the South Hill, but to a lesser extent.
Business assistance can be provided in areas such as marketing, merchandising, accounting, low-interest loans and employee training. Professional design assistance could help with sign guidelines (see below), buildings improvements and landscaping. The Chamber should take the lead in sponsoring a series of workshops or contracting a specialist to work one-on-one with businesses.
Business retention and recruitment should focus on South Hill's niches:
* Auto Services (gas, repair)
* Convenience Retail (fast food, c-store)
* Youth (schools, pizza, sports-related)
* Lodging (motel, RV)
* Personal services (hair, laundry)
* Furnishings/Antique/2nd Hand
* Equipment Sales/Repair
Key businesses that should be retained and recruited include tourist-oriented services, auto parts, furnishings, convenience goods and services (groceries, repair, banks, etc.) and youth-oriented goods and services.
b. Initiate Development of Voluntary Sign Guidelines
The sign clutter on the South Hill is detrimental to businesses and unsafe for drivers and pedestrians. Many of the signs are difficult to read because of their color, lettering style, size, shape, height or placement. If potential customers have difficulty reading signs, they are less likely to stop. There are particular sizes, colors and lettering styles of signs that work better than others from a business standpoint (to attract the most customers). The Partnership should consult with a sign design expert to assist in the development of voluntary sign guidelines. The guidelines would not be mandatory; however, they would help businesses to maximize their investment in signs by utilizing the most effective designs. Incentives could be offered to encourage businesses to upgrade their signs, such as a three-year tax credit for the amount of the sign. Traffic and pedestrian safety would be improved by reducing the "cluttered" effect of poorly designed or placed signs.
c. Create a South Hill Identity Through Theme/Design Consistency
South Hill is an auto-oriented district (vs. pedestrian-oriented). However, it does not have to feel like just a "strip". The area would be more attractive (and safe) if businesses were linked with a sidewalk along the highway, some consistent pedestrian-scale lighting to improve visibility, low-maintenance landscaping and perhaps banners on the light posts to create a more welcoming and festive look. If the "place" is more attractive and inviting, customers passing by on the highway are more likely to stop. The lighting and banners should be consistent - or at least complementary - in design to those Downtown, to provide an overall look of cohesiveness in the community.
d. Address Customer Comforts and Needs
Pedestrian safety and traffic bottlenecks are severe problems on South Hill. Many citizens interviewed by the planning team indicated that they avoid South Hill if possible because of the traffic, which is detrimental to businesses. The implementation of a three lane highway as recommended in section D4 will improve drivers' ability to make left turns while allowing through-traffic to continue. Enhanced crosswalks, a sidewalk, lighting and covering of ditches will be safer for pedestrians. The use of gutters and curbs to define and limit ingress and egress points to businesses will better organize traffic and improve business access. If two or three "nodes" of commercial and civic activity are created (such as small pocket parks or plazas), South Hill customers will do more walking from neighborhoods, the schools, etc., and reduce traffic pressure.
In the long term, efforts should be made to link South Hill to Downtown with a pedestrian/bike path and transit shuttle. South Hill has many businesses that provide tourist services, yet there is no tourist information at the south entry to town. Perhaps the Partnership and South Hill businesses could work with the Chamber to install a kiosk near the south entrance (e.g., near the Idaho Dept. of Lands office). If visitors stop for information, they're more likely to be enticed to stay longer.
e. Implement Strategic Promotion Based on Primary Markets
The Chamber of Commerce coordinates business promotions. The South Hill businesses should work with each other and with the Chamber to implement promotions that specifically reach their target markets: Highway 95 traffic, surrounding neighborhoods, tourists, youth and county residents. Overall community promotion is most critical, with specific promotions for South Hill and Downtown a secondary priority. With the Chamber of Commerce in the lead to coordinate business promotion, the South Hill and Downtown commercial districts can promote the community collectively, and promote their separate niches as complementary. Section I provides more detailed information about promotion strategies.
G2 South Hill Design
a. Overall Design System
South Hill's greatest obstacles to positive development are traffic congestion, a negative visual environment and impaired public safety along the highway. These obstacles can be addressed and should be as a top priority in the Connection program.
Highway 95 design and traffic volumes currently make it difficult for pedestrians (locals and visitors alike) to move around the community comfortably. South Hill's local street network also contributes to circulation challenges (i.e. few, if any, "T" intersections with Highway 95). However, with the concentration of neighborhoods and schools in South Hill, it is time for this corridor to become a pedestrian priority area, while also accommodating vehicles. Sidewalks, crosswalks, parking, traffic signals (including pedestrian activated signals), street furniture, lighting and other amenities need to be ultimately integrated to maximize pedestrian comfort, convenience, safety - and image. When this is done, South Hill will regain much of its attractiveness both as a visitor destination and as a place to live. The driver, too, will be rewarded through a more attractive, safe and organized environment.
The design system for South Hill is contained in Figure 4.15. The intent is to create a continuous pedestrian network within the corridor that provides safe crossings and an enhanced human scale commercial environment. Two 1/4-mile nodes have been identified that should receive focused treatment in order to create identifiable, unique character areas. (Note: These nodes are approximately the same geographic size as Downtown.) Businesses within these nodes can join together in a collective spirit to improve their form and function. The following key strategies reinforce these points.
Make Pedestrians A Priority -To facilitate increased pedestrian movement and security along South Hill Road, install sidewalks, curbs, and gutters where none currently exist. Priority should be placed on ensuring a continuous, safe, and adequately wide (minimum 5-foot passable at any given point) sidewalk system, with safe pedestrian crossings located no more than 1/4 mile apart.
Establish a Positive Identity - While some central theme might work for each of the South Hill nodes, any theme has to be "original" and "grounded" in Bonners Ferry's history. Certainly the Highway 95 corridor should not become an Alpine Village or Old West Town. However, a consistent level of design quality, coupled with the surrounding natural beauty of the hills and mountains should form the basis for a unique an identifiable "theme".
Install Consistent Streetscape - South Hill should employ the same furniture palette as Downtown to create consistency between the two areas. A series of seasonal banners should be created for acorn-style streetlight poles to use as a unifying element throughout all of Bonners Ferry. The banners can be used to promote local events, resources, etc.
Introduce Simple Directional Signs to South Hill Businesses and Destinations - One of the key issues along Highway 95 is sign clutter. In conjunction with
ITD, property owners, and businesses, the City should develop a comprehensive system of informational and directional signs throughout South Hill to help drivers and pedestrians find their way to businesses and activity areas (such as the High School). Integrate color, graphics, and Bonners Ferry's history into a signage system that brings people into the area.
Protect and Enhance Neighborhoods - Protect the identity and stability of neighborhoods. As part of improvements made to South Hill, neighborhood entry monuments should be constructed to delineate where businesses end and residential uses begin.
G3. South Hill Circulation Must be Enhanced
The most pressing needs on South Hill are related to traffic and pedestrian safety, as well as transportation capacity along U.S. 95. Near term improvements should focus on completing the three-lane cross-section (two through lanes plus a continuous center turn lane), and a continuous pedestrian sidewalk between Tamarack Street and Madison Street. Enhanced illumination on U.S. 95 along South Hill would also improve safety and attractiveness of the commercial corridor.
A secondary priority would include completing a three-lane cross-section on U.S. 95 from Tamarack Street to the south city limits.
On January 11, 2001 a public meeting was held with South Hill business and property owners, with over 80 people in attendance. The following options for long-term transportation corridors for U.S. 95 were presented, discussed, and voted on in a preference poll format.
South Hill U.S. 95 Options - Preference Poll (1/11/01)
The preference of businesses, citizens, and property owners on South Hill was shown to be overwhelmingly in favor of U.S. 95 remaining on the present alignment. This support was expressed even though future widening of the highway to five lanes would require significant right-of-way acquisition from commercial properties fronting 95, as well as significant reconfiguration of access approaches into existing businesses. Since the commercial character of South Hill is largely geared toward auto oriented business, property owners expressed serious concerns about future U.S. 95 corridor options which might by-pass traffic around the existing corridor.
Since U.S. 95 is a state highway owned and managed by the Idaho Transportation Department, the definitive determination about the future alignment and design criteria must be made by ITD, with local input. Bonners Ferry Mayor Darrell Kerby wrote to ITD in December 2000 requesting that the Transportation Department initiate a formal "Corridor Study" for U.S. 95 through Bonners Ferry. A corridor study is a thorough analysis of alternatives, costs, feasibility, social and environmental impacts. Once begun by ITD, a detailed corridor study of U.S. 95 will take 1 ½ to 2 years to complete.
Improvements to U.S. 95 through South Hill have been suggested in a phased - near term and long-term strategy:
a. Near Term Improvements - Complete the three-lane cross-section with a continuous concrete pedestrian sidewalk on one side. Refer to the typical cross-section in Figure 4.17. A key element in making the three-lane cross-section feasible, is the construction of a central storm drainage pipeline, which would allow elimination of the existing open ditch. Properly planned and designed, this central storm-drainage system would serve the needs of the three-lane near term roadway section on U.S. 95, as well as the ultimate five-lane section.
b. Long Term Improvements - Expand
to a five-lane cross-section for U.S. 95 through South Hill. In addition to the considerable right-of-way acquisition required, the conversion of the roadway from three to five lanes will require relocation of the sidewalk, illumination, and overhead utilities. The main line storm drain constructed during the near term three-lane project should not be disturbed: only local catch basins and drainage leader lines would need to be relocated.
Recommended Ultimate Roadway Cross Section
* Expand right-of-way to 78 ft. (Acquire 14 ft. additional both sides)
* Construct 5-lane urban arterial standard
* Maintain storm sewer constructed during interim improvement
* Relocate walk and illumination from East Side; add sidewalk and illumination on West Side
* Convert center turn lane to landscape median with protected turn pockets
Traffic Capacity Data on U.S. 95 at South Hill (ADT)
* Current volumes: 9,500 (1999)
* Capacity of existing 2 lane: 12,000 (Los D)
* Capacity of proposed interim 3 lane: 19,000 (Los D)
* Capacity of ultimate 5 lane: 36,000 (Los D)
(Los = "Level of service")