The Waveland Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Thursday hosted its second meeting with Orion Planning + Design to discuss the plan to improve the Hwy. 90 corridor into an “attractive, resilient, economically viable corridor.”
Bob Barber with Orion said that the team is completing a factual study of the area, which includes engaging members of the community as much as possible.
Barber said Orion then will design a plan and an implementation program.
The center of the corridor is the intersection of Hwy. 603 and Hwy. 90 and the boundary extends to Bay St. Louis on the east side and to Waveland-Kiln Cutoff road on the west side, Barber said.
The corridor contains about 250 acres and two-and-a-half miles from west to east, he added, and is “overwhelmingly” designated as commercial use.
Barber said that there is about 1.2 million square feet of building space in the corridor, which is equal to about five or six Walmarts. About 700,000 square feet or 58 percent of the corridor is devoted to retail sales.
There are vacancies in the corridor and some of the key vacancies are at the intersection of Hwy. 603 and Hwy. 90, Barber said.
There are about 24,000 cars per day in the corridor, he said.
“It’s a busy corridor, it’s not impaired in terms of traffic flow,” Barber said.
He described four key themes in the Hwy. 90 corridor strategy: Clean it up; connect it; catalyze it or make sure there are focal point projects that generate positive activity; and cultivate it, which deals with landscaping, etc.
Barber said the framework plans include three “key” elements: Identity enhancement, mobility, and redevelopment.
Orion’s Allison Mouch spoke about the corridor’s “low-hanging fruit” and steps the city could take now.
She began with “identity enhancements.”
“Waveland has an identity,” she said. “But we also know that you only have one opportunity to make a good first impression. A couple of things we heard from the survey is that you don’t know when you’re entering from east or west, necessarily, where Waveland starts.”
She said that establishing “gateways” would help indicate to visitors and residents that they are entering Waveland.
Mouch said that the city has a “blight problem.”
“Part of that is not just buildings, but it’s also abandoned or partially-abandoned signs,” she said. “That was a pretty evident physical quality and characteristic of the corridor. Knowing that you have a development code, a zoning ordinance, design guidelines in place that are intended to prevent this and intended to prevent ideally what’s going on with your structures. We decided ground truth.”
Mouch said the team looked at every piece of property that is accessible from the corridor to determine if the parking lots met the standards in place or if it included an abandoned sign.
“We were only looking at free-standing signs, no signs on building,” she said. “Of free-standing signs, you’ve got roughly 150 in the corridor. Of those 150 signs, 50 of them are temporary signs, flags, things that are just in the right-of-way, which they’re actually not supposed to be in the right-of-way. So you’ve got temporary banners and signs that are actually in violation of your own code right now, today. You’ve also got about 40 signs that are abandoned. So, when you take that as a whole, over 60 percent of the signs in that corridor do not meet your regulations. So, that starts to speak to an enforcement issue.”
Mouch also suggested some easier projects for the city to complete such as light pole repainting, public art installation, way finding, and the enforcement of landscaping and design standards.
Way finding, she said, is creating a consistent and directional theme to effectively guide people through the corridor.
Bert Kuyrkendall with Orion spoke about the mobility of the corridor.
One enhancement would be enabling people to travel safely through the corridor by means other than a vehicle, he said.
He said there could be potential for bicycle or golf cart paths and looking for ways to connect the neighborhoods, parks, coastline, and downtown Waveland to the corridor.
That could be accomplished with a “side path,” or “bike boulevards” on low-speed streets.
Currently, Kuyrkendall said, the city does not have a lot of crosswalks nor does it have pedestrian signals at the intersections to safely accommodate pedestrians.
With regards to “driveway cuts,” Kuyrkendall said, it’s a “problem” having a lot of them close together.
“It presents a lot of conflict points, it’s not safe for drivers, it’s definitely not safe for walking or biking on the side path or walking on the sidewalk because there’s cars coming and going and it continuously breaks up that pedestrian experience,” he said. None of the curb cuts are connected to each other, Kuyrkendall said.
“So, that just comes down to a coding issue,” he said. “What can happen in the code that enables or prescribes shared access drives and cross connections to reduce the number of curb cuts.”
Oliver Seabolt with Orion spoke about some long-term goals for the city.
“What we’re trying to do here is actually come up with a vision that actually speaks to what the culture of Waveland should be or what you want it to be,” he said.
Seabolt showed a rendering of improvements that specifically addresses the intersection of Hwy. 603 and Hwy. 90.
“We heard a lot of comments about this intersection,” he said. “Why hasn’t the hotel been taken down? Why is the Rite Aid still sitting there? We want some restaurants. We’d love to have a nice hotel that brings people to Waveland to spend their money here.”
The rendering included a potential chain hotel at the location of the old Rite Aid with parking in the back, so visitors aren’t staring at a parking lot when they enter the interaction, Seabolt said.
It also included landscape enhancements in the medians, which could include native plants and a pedestrian network and turning the retention ponds into more of a feature.
He said that the city could also look at its design codes to promote a different type of development.
Barber ended the presentation explaining some strategies.
“On the clean part, dealing with the signs, there’s code enforcement there,” Barber said. “Let’s get the abandoned signs down. Making sure there’s a vacant property inventory. The tools are available to clean the corridor.”
The second set of strategies involve connecting and would require cooperation with MDOT, Barber said. Kuyrkendall met with MDOT officials to discuss some of the proposals such as implementing a side path, enhancing way finding signage, and creating pedestrian crossings.
“The cross access, the curb cuts, providing for bicycle parking have to do with updating the zoning code or design standards, ensuring that sites are planned well,” Barber said.
As far as future major redevelopments, Barber said, the city could look into TIFs or Tax Increment Financing that would encompass the corridor.
“Whereby when property does redevelop, you can capture a funding source to offset the costs or to provide the costs of some of these infrastructure improvements that we’re talking about,” he said.
Barber suggested that the city start with cleaning the corridor.
“All these concepts have to be vetted, these are ideas that we formulated based on our interaction with you all over the last week and before that,” he said. “Once we get a set of comments back or comment period concludes, we’ll adjust what we’ve got here accordingly.”
Once the strategies have been prioritized, Barber said, Orion will present the city a finalized plan.
The survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CMLRWTM
Learn more about Orion Planning + Design at www.orionplanningdesign.com.