Will Kings Beach project help business?
Kings Beach residents will bet money ” Monopoly money, that is ” on their preferred Commercial Core Improvement alternative at a workshop this afternoon at the North Tahoe Community Conference Center.
Their choice will narrow down the four proposed options to the two most popular. The workshop begins at 5:30 p.m. today.
The third of four public workshops will include a walking tour of downtown Kings Beach, with two lanes of traffic closed to allow participants to visualize each of the four project alternatives. Afterward, residents will engage in a Monopoly-inspired exercise, placing colored currency on a map designating their preferred alternative. The results will be tallied and released after the meeting is adjourned.
Previous experience in Tahoe City and early planning designated improvements in water quality, bicycle and pedestrian mobility and aesthetic and scenic development as the project’s primary goals, said Dan LaPlante, an associate civil engineer with Placer County.
The question is, do those stated goals reflect the concerns of local business owners and residents?
“I’d just like to see anything happen,” said Cary Peterson, who owns the Char-Pit burger joint in Kings Beach.
“My concerns as a business owner are vacant properties and people going out of business in this town,” he said. “I want to see any improvements made.”
Peterson’s interest in the financial regeneration of Kings Beach was echoed by Heath Spencer, who owns the Ski Barn a few blocks away. Using Tahoe City as an example, Spencer questioned whether or not sidewalks and landscaping would generate revenue and business growth.
“It would help create a situation that would be more user-friendly,” he said. “At the same note, sidewalks alone aren’t going to do it.”
Mainstreet Design Committee Chairwoman Lesley Bruening said she thought wide sidewalks and three lanes of traffic on Highway 28 would make Kings Beach stand out from other local communities, giving the community a unique downtown feel that would promote business growth.
“Kings Beach needs something drastic,” she said.
Water quality issues addressed in a draft environmental report focuses on increasing the clarity of Lake Tahoe by preventing road sediment from washing into the lake, said Program Manager David Polivy of the Sierra Business Council.
Landscaping is a porous surface that can capture sediment before it enters the lake.
“The improvement of water quality contributes to the biggest asset our entire region has, which is Lake Tahoe,” said Carol Savary, who jointly owns the Century 21 building in downtown Kings Beach.
Sidewalks and bicycle lanes were added to each of the three proposed alternatives to improve pedestrian mobility and safety, although sidewalk width and various parking plans present different outcomes for businesses.
Wider sidewalks, with buffers in the form of parkway landscaping, offer greater pedestrian safety, Polivy said.
“People will feel more comfortable and spend more time in the downtown if there’s a safe and beautiful place to be,” he said.
Wider sidewalks also offer more opportunities for commerce with business displays and outdoor restaurant seating, although they can pose parking challenges.
Alternative four offers the widest sidewalks at the expense of road-side parking, a concern for business owners who do not want to lose curb spaces in front of their business.
Others contend that forcing motorists to park farther away on back streets, encouraging them to walk to their destination and pass businesses en route, would increase Kings Beach’s overall sales revenue.
“It slows down the customer,” Polivy said.
Aesthetic and scenic improvements are meant to encourage increased pedestrian traffic. Parking, signage, flowers and landscaping promote a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere to drivers, encouraging visitors to stop and enjoy the area.
Savary said she hoped that aesthetic improvements would create commercial energy in Kings Beach, either by encouraging existing business owners to invest in their property or by promoting new businesses to acquire vacant spaces.
“The project invites new investment in the area,” she said.
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