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CHANGES COMING: O’Fallon residents weigh in on future of city’s downtown

O’Fallon residents participate in an activity to determine preferences for a revived downtown area.

O’Fallon residents participate in an activity to determine preferences for a revived downtown area.

If you could change one thing about Main Street, what would it be?

A room packed full of O’Fallon residents was asked this question on Feb. 19 at O’Fallon city hall during a visioning workshop. The question was part of a process that aims to preserve and enhance O’Fallon’s historic core, specifically around Main Street.

The workshop, which was run by the urban design firm Stantec, was an interactive affair. At the event’s outset, the attendees walked down a row of large white poster board displays, completing a different activity at each.

Residents were asked to place stickers next to pictures of downtown areas from other cities that they particularly liked. Then they were asked to place stickers next to different types of amenities they would like to see in a downtown area, such as art, green space and fountains.
Lastly, three questions were presented on poster board displays in the form of large “speech bubbles.” Residents were asked to write brief answers to each of those questions on pink, teal and yellow post-it notes and place them in the corresponding bubble.

Question included:

• “How do you use Main Street?” Answers to this included things like restaurants, banking, church and city hall.

• “What change would you like to see in the downtown area?” Many answers included requests for increased shopping, dining, making it a more vibrant location and “creating a destination.”

• “How would you describe the current downtown area in one word?” Some of the responses to the final question included  “old,” “congested” and “inefficient.”

After the opening exercise, the crowd broke into groups and indicated on maps where they felt housing would be beneficial, their favorite places on and around Main Street and what they thought the average building height should be.

Councilmember Mike Pheney (Ward 5) said the discussions he and other councilmembers have had with residents have been “almost identical” to the ideas talked about at the workshop.

“That’s the important thing, we need to know as a city council what our people really want,” Pheney said.

Amanda Morrell, a landscape architect from Stantec, said things like entertainment and creating a vibrant street life are beneficial in creating an attractive and successful downtown area.

“Everybody wants their downtown to be the ‘place to be,’” Morrell said. “When people see other people on the street, that makes them want to be on the street. It gives you a sense of safety, a sense of activity and it just makes for a dynamic environment that is conducive to retail sales.”

In addition to the Feb. 19 workshop, Stantec has held several focus groups with different organizations and businesses around the city.

According to Morrell, O’Fallon residents soon will be asked to vote at ofallon.mo.us/o-fallon-connected on one of four prototype downtowns with a range of amenities and attractions. Once the residents indicate their preference, it will be up to the city council to move forward with the renovation of the downtown area.

“Depending on what is decided, this could be a many-year project,” O’Fallon Communications Director Tom Drabelle said. “But really, the goal would be that we would have some deliverables as soon as next year’s budget that we could start chipping away at this going forward.”

Drabelle said the downtown project is the most detailed part of a larger plan. The other aspects of the project will help focus on facilitating “walkability and bikeability” throughout highways K and M.

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