A modified plan for King Street was provided to the Town Council on Monday during a discussion on downtown improvements. Previously, the group “Voices for an Amazing Place” created a plan for the revival of Downtown Leesburg that would cost an estimated $3.8 million.
The improvements were first presented to the Town Council back in July and would revitalize South King Street between Loudoun and North streets.
A “flex zone” would transform on-street parking in a larger space for businesses to set up seating areas for customers during certain times of the week. Vendors would also be able to use the space during special events such as First Friday.
Movable bollards were also proposed to block off the parking spaces to provide sufficient space. There would be 10 parking spots on King Street between Market and North streets and only three parking spots would be lost within the two block area.
Also proposed was the addition of seven trees, curb bump-outs that would line the streets and the expansion of a King Street sidewalk that would move the courthouse’s fence back by 10 feet.
However, Scott Parker, assistant to the town manager, said there were safety and cost issues involved with the proposed plan. The bollards are expensive and provide a dangerous false sense of security, he said.
Each one would weigh 200 pounds, which wouldn't be heavy enough to withstand the impact of a car. They wouldn’t create a safe barrier for pedestrians and could also become visually distracting from the architecture of surrounding roads and buildings, he said.
Other issues related to the water line on King Street having to be relocated as well as the proposed LED lights that would not be supported by Dominion Virginia Power, if approved.
Parker recommended that the Town Council discuss a few alternatives that might make the plan more appealing before moving forward. One idea was to “experiment” to see if the “flex zone” plan would actually work.
Councilman Kenneth Reid said the price tag was a bust including all of the other issues involved.
“We really need to get closure on this,” he said. There is no guarantee that any of this is going to bring significant change to the downtown area. Businesses have been thriving, he said, even though the economy has been going through rough times.
Councilman David Butler felt the same way but said it would make sense to experiment with the sidewalks to see what would work and whether it would benefit the town.
Town Manager John Wells agreed and said whatever works could be utilized as part of the program. Experimentation would be also be cheaper, he said, before spending thousands of dollars on something that might fail. The issue will be discussed during a public hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 29 although a decision may not be made.