Downtown Bismarck

Of the many ideas the Bismarck City Commission and the Bismarck-Mandan Metropolitan Planning Organization has for downtown Bismarck, one is to create an employment campus on Fifth Street for the City County Building and Burleigh County Courthouse and wider sidewalks and more boulevard trees. 5-3-2013

 BISMARCK, N.D. _ A Bismarck downtown study will look at a central busing transit, two downtown parks, new parking ramps, improved features for walkers and bikers and possibly removing confusing one-ways in the shopping district.

The next public meeting for the $325,000 master plan study will be 5:30 p.m. May 23 at the Prairie Rose Room of the Bismarck Civic Center Exhibit Hall. The city of Bismarck and the Bismarck-Mandan Metropolitan Planning Organization want residents to comment on how to improve the downtown.

Jason Graf, project manager for Crandall Arambula, the firm heading the study, said there has been discussion about breaking the downtown into a series of themed districts:

n A shopping and restaurant district for Main Avenue.

n An entertainment district south of the railroad tracks tied to a headquarters hotel near Kirkwood Mall, more retail along Kirkwood Mall and more public engagement opportunities on the north side of Kirkwood Mall.

n An employment campus on Fifth street for the Burleigh County Courthouse, the City County Building and more friendly pedestrian/bikeways to the Sanford Health and St. Alexius Medical Center hospitals. Sidewalks would be widened and more trees would be added to the boulevards. Off-street protected bike paths might be added on Sixth Street.

n A housing district neighborhood — south of Front Avenue and west of Fifth Street that places apartments and condos above ground floor retail spaces.

n A cultural trail district involving the state Capitol, the Missouri River and the downtown area. A protected bike trail along Sixth Street could tie the Capitol to the downtown district, near the United Tribes Technical College and to the airport. A second cultural trail would parallel the BNSF Railway to the west and connect to the Missouri River’s trails.

“There is a major emphasis on Fifth Street and Main Avenue,” Graf said of the downtown study.

Traffic flow patterns will be an important part of the study, particularly if one-ways work at Chancellor Square or whether the street should be converted into a two-way street, Graf said.

Graf said a downtown bus transit center also is being studied — near the parking ramp at the Radisson Hotel between Sixth and Seventh along Main Avenue, Seventh and Eighth on Main Avenue and in a proposed parking ramp west of Fifth Street near Avenue A and Rosser Avenue. He said it could be planned to have weather protection and to hold nine buses at a time.

The study includes a review of new parking ramp options and more focus on the needs of shoppers. The future Sixth Street and Thayer Avenue parking ramp to be built starting this summer will be heavily used by long-term renters like medical staff and office workers, not hourly rentals. “There are a lot less options for (shoppers) than those going to work,” Graf said of Bismarck’s downtown parking.

Possible new parking ramp spaces may include Fifth Street and Front Avenue, north of Thayer Avenue near the hospitals, Fifth on Avenue A and Rosser Avenue.

Dawn Kopp, director of the Downtowners Association, said its members want park-like areas studied for the downtown. Certain parking lots could be converted for areas for residents to lunch or hold special events, she said.

The green spaces increase the commercial property values downtown, Kopp said. “They are a nice atmosphere for people to relax. They are more family-friendly,” she said.

“We would like to identify a community gathering space and a public gardening space. One would be a multi-use area and one would be a place to linger at for lunch,” Graf said.

The Downtowners and their supporters favor studying more off-street parking, including more parking ramps, Kopp said.

Kopp said downtown merchants also want more attention paid to safety. She said they may want a beat cop, an officer who either walks through the downtown district or patrols it on a bicycle. With the city growth, there is the potential for more crime, she said.

A “clean team” could be hired to maintain the trash and keep the downtown area clean, she said, although she doesn’t know how that should be funded.

Graf said a skyway linking a headquarters hotel to the Bismarck Civic Center is possible, depending on what the city wants.

For updates and suggestions for the downtown study or an overview of the master plan, visit http://www.downtownbismarckstudy.com/

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Reach LeAnn Eckroth at 701-250-8264 or leann.eckroth@bismarcktribune.com.