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Commercial Street revitalization ideas presented

Hotel study remains on the table

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Earlier this year, Morgan City Council voted to retain the services of a Utah State University landscape architecture group to assess the needs of Morgan City and its Commercial Street property and business owners in order to devise a beautification plan.

This week, the USU group presented their first round of alternatives at the Morgan City Council meeting. The same presentation will be given to business and property owners May 4.

Plans include aligning traffic lanes by adding some “bump-outs,” placing street lamps on both sides of the street, adding more landscape elements to the north side of the street and possibly adding a central plaza.

“Bump-outs” are decorative areas with trees and flowers that come out as far as the parking stalls. They define the parking area and beautify the streetscape. Parking stalls on Commercial Street would also go from a 53 degree angle to a 45 degree angle to improve the line of sight for motorists backing out of the stalls.

It was also mentioned by USU Professor Dave Evans that over time streets naturally raise in the middle. He suggested that the city may want to grind down the original road to improve the line of sight even further. “These things take more money,” said Evans, but many cities taking on revitalization projects find it is worth it.

Landscape elements on the north side of Commercial Street will require approval from Union Pacific Railroad officials, but Economic Development Coordinator Shayla Hurlbut said she has been in contact with officials and the plans presented shouldn’t present any issues.

The last element presented was a raised, interlocking brick paved plaza at the junction of Commercial Street and 125 North. This plaza would slow down traffic on the street and would contain tables and benches where guests could relax and visit.

The vacant lot on Commercial Street is still awaiting a so far fictitious hotel. Morgan County Economic Development Director Marlin Eldred approached the council about assistance in funding a Statement of Estimated Annual Operating Results for a proposed hotel. The study would be conducted by Robert S. Benson and Associates, a firm that specializes in hospitality consulting and valuation.

Council members seemed to be unanimously pessimistic about funding yet another survey regarding hotel possibilities, but did finally come to the conclusion to fund this last attempt.

Eldred promised, “I will be upfront with the council if the numbers really don’t add up.” To which the council reiterated their wish that this be a realistic study and asked that inflated numbers not be used as they have been in the past.

Councilman Fran Hopkin pointed out that the money for the survey was already in the budget. He expressed his shared skepticism but stated, “I have been at this a lot less time than most of you and I am already at the point where I am saying, ‘Why are we going out and begging people to put a hotel here. If it was a profitable venture, shouldn’t they be coming to us?’ But this may be the best way to either move forward or justify calling it off for a while.”

Councilman Bill Cobabe said he appreciated that this firm would take a more personal approach and acknowledged that the amount the city would have to come up with was fair and a considerable amount less than past surveys.

Eldred said they will come and spend a few days in Morgan and personally approach potential developers instead of just making up packets and sending them out like previous consulting firms have done.

Hurlbut, Cobabe and Councilman Tony London agreed that they were on the same page, but Councilman London was a little more emphatic in his discomfort with another survey saying he would only agree if “we can promise to finally put this to bed.”

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