Transforming A Downtown With A New Look & New Flow

Transforming A Downtown With A New Look & New Flow

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A crowd gathered around the potential designs for a new Public Square in Watertown Thursday night.

It's one of the most talked about of a number of ideas for what downtown Watertown could look like as the city prepares to spend its $10 million grant from the state.

Thursday was the end of a week-long look into how the city should spend the money, which was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year.

The goal for that plan is to slow down traffic on the square, close it to traffic on either the north or south side, and replace the closed part of the road with a park or hangout spot.

April Johnson owns a business on the south side of the square and says if parking were moved farther from her store, she'd be in trouble.

"Not only is it going to eliminate customers now that I'm fighting to get because of the parking, they're going to have to walk even farther," she said.

Which side of the square that would be closed is still up for debate.

Mayor Joe Butler says for that plan to work, traffic might need to go somewhere else.

"You'd have to divert traffic to the Black River Parkway, which probably doesn't get that much traffic as it should," he said, "so that'll be a good debate to see how that flushes out."

One idea Butler likes is closing down the end of Franklin Street for pedestrian-only use.

Other ideas floated this week are new or expanded parks downtown, making better use of the riverfront, and adding some style to the streets to attract more people.

All of the ideas that have come up this week started with questions presented by the people of Watertown.

Lisa Nagle is a consultant with Elan Planning Design and Landscape Architecture. She says some of those questions were "'what if we could do this, how do we get to the river?'"

And from there, she said, "so our designers begin to look at that and say, 'okay, well, if this is a concern, if parking is a concern, if safety is a concern, here's how we can address it.'"

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