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Consultant unveils downtown revitalization plan
February 13, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Developing the 10th and M Street intersection is one of the major recommendations for continued growth and revitalization of the downtown area.

The recommendation was one component of a downtown revitalization plan submitted to the Gering City Council by the consulting firm of Short Elliott Hendrickson. The plan has been in the works for the past three months.

Project manager Andrew Dane spent about an hour outlining the report’s findings for council members during their regular Monday meeting.

Dane said 10th and M Street is vital as a city anchor and for drawing into the city those thousands of east-west travelers heading to the Scotts Bluff National Monument. One of the recommendations was to develop and “activated public space” in that area, such as a small park with benches and a some type of prominent focal point, such as a sculpture. That active area would draw pedestrian traffic and could serve downtown workers as a place to relax or have lunch.

The report also recommended large, colorful signage along M Street before the 10th Street intersection to alert travelers they’re entering the downtown area.

“Revitalization is a matter of leveraging the assets you already have,” Dane said during his report to the council. ‘When looking at what types of businesses to attract, we often overlook what’s already there. The downtown area has a huge number of local market segments it can reach.”

He pointed out that Gering already has a number of strong traffic generators, from county, state and local government offices to retail establishments.

Dane said there’s also market potential for a number of retail businesses in the downtown area. At least two full service, sit-down restaurants were high on the list. So was a brew pub. But the business with the most potential has been discussed for some time – a hotel for downtown Gering.

The report’s recommendation is for the hotel to face 10th Street and sited in the current east parking lot of the Gering Civic Center, between M and N Streets. The hotel would also have room for two or three retail outlets on the ground floor.

Calling 10th Street very pedestrian unfriendly, Dane recommended narrowing the street from four to three lanes – north and south lanes and a center turning lane where needed. That would free up space for what Dane calls “pocket parks” and “bump outs,” where trees could be planted and benches installed for shady areas during the hot summer months.

The final version of the plan will be tweaked over the next few weeks before being submitted to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. If accepted, Gering will be awarded a $350,000 implementation grant to begin the downtown revitalization process.

Dane also recommended the city establish and fund an organization that would focus on the process of implementing potential projects and marketing the downtown area.
Dane also recommended the city establish and fund an organization that would focus on the process of implementing potential projects and marketing the downtown area.
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