City of Chipley inches closer to final vision for enhancing downtown

The Chipley City Council and project consultant Fisher Arnold have been hashing out details on a plan to enhance Downtown Chipley. The plan is expected to be finalized this summer. [COLLIN BREAUX | The News]

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The last meeting to get public input on a plan to modify Downtown Chipley was held Thursday, June 6.

The Chipley City Council has heard proposals from consultant Fisher Arnold–as selected by the Chipley Redevelopment Agency–on how to enhance the downtown area to bring more people to the region and increase the appeal for visitors.

“One of the main things that stood out for us is wanting to look at areas to provide restroom facilities in the independent commercial retail area,” David Baker with Fisher Arnold said. “This would help, especially, during events so we won’t have to intrude on a lot of businesses or restaurants. There are public facilities that can be utilized. It would be a beneficial addition to our plan.”

The restrooms could also be incorporated into general “comfort stations,” which would also have water fountains, benches, and shade. 

A greenway has been suggested, especially on the eastern portion.

“Most everyone felt like this would be a good addition to draw people into the district, as well provide an anchor on that eastern side and provide recreational opportunities for the entire community,” Baker said.

Providing adequate lighting is also being factored into the downtown plan.

Baker again brought up opportunities for retail development.

“One may be a bed breakfast type opportunity, a boutique hotel–especially when the Amtrak facility gets online,” Baker said. “That would be an excellent opportunity for tourism and travelers to stay at a smaller, upscale type hotel in the area and visit shops and restaurants.”

Ecotourism with the greenway or Falling Waters State Parking is another avenue that can be explored, Baker said.

Continuing with the outdoors theme, Baker said pocket parks could be developed for pop-up concerts, art displays, or “general passive type of recreational venues.”

Baker previously said sandwich and coffee shops could go by the industrial area for workers and nearby residents, which he again mentioned during the June 6 meeting–along with providing an area for workers to enjoy their lunch breaks.

Turning the site where the Mongoven Building is being partially demolished into a public space was also mentioned. City Councilmember Cheryl McCall said walls will still be left up at the site and asked if that was considered in Fisher Arnold’s plans. 

“There have been several of our communities that have utilized the storefront or facade and left them to keep the streetscape character,” Baker said in response. “They’ve been able to utilize that and behind it as a little park or utilize the wall structures for smaller type shops and things like that that had a central courtyard.”

McCall said the presented plans don’t match what’s being done at the Mongoven site.

“We can massage that,” Baker said.

Other members of the City Council said some details of Fisher Arnold’s proposal need tweaking before final approval, including parking access coming off highways due to available space and not infringing on private property when it comes to street enhancements. 

Baker also said there are opportunities to provide access for bicycle use; that there can be a distinction created between streets, sidewalks, and parking; and placing medians in the middle of the street. 

Another presentation will be made to the City Council on July 9 and then final deliverables are expected on July 15.