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Council presented with downtown plaza plan
June 11, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Plans for a downtown plaza became clearer as the Gering City Council inspected a site plan sketch for the area around the Civic Center.
Downtown Revitalization Committee Chairman George Schlothauer said the initial phase of construction would be done immediately east of the Gering Civic Center and north to N Street.

The project is part of a $350,000 Nebraska Department of Economic Development grant to revitalize the downtown area.
While a splash pad will be included as part of the plaza, an earlier proposal for a skating rink has been scrapped. Also, an idea to site the park between N and O Streets just west of 10th Street have been changed. That area will be resurfaced, but will continue to provide parking space.

On the north side of the Civic Center is a pavilion area that can be used as an area for Farmers’ Markets and other activities such as art and craft shows. Schlothauer said that area could also be used in the winter for a site for Santa’s Village.

A stage would be built directly east of the Civic Center in the area of the facility’s current parking lot for concerts and other musical venues. Although not part of the original plan but under consideration is a “great room” adjoining the stage to allow for venues such as weddings. Restrooms are also planned as part of that addition.

“In order for us to get the money in the grant, we need to submit our plan to the state with the council’s approval,” Schlothauer said. “Part of the funding has already been set aside for the plaza and also for improvements to the downtown business area.”

Council member Larry Gibbs said he was concerned about the splash pad from a maintenance point of view. He was also concerned about removing a significant portion of the Civic Center’s existing parking lot, making it harder for people to get into the center, especially in inclement weather. “We’re moving most of the parking to the north side and there’s no entrance there,” Gibbs said. “People would have to come around the south side to enter.”

He was also concerned about not having restrooms as part of the plaza until the great room was completed.
“This is a proposal,” Schlothauer told the council. “It isn’t set in stone, but we need to get moving so the state will release the funds.
When asked about the need for a splash pad, he said there just aren’t enough activities available for young people in the community. He added it would help draw people downtown and in turn become a part of the city as it involved youth.
Devin Charles, President of the Gering Library Board, also made a presentation and a proposal to the city council. He first presented a slide show of their trip last year to the Anythink Library in Thornton, Colo. and outlined the amenities it has to offer. Many of the venues that library offers could be adapted to the Gering Library. “Our current library has been sitting at the corner of 11th and P Streets since 1962,” Charles said. “It’s the recommendation of the citizens and staff to expand the size of the building, but that’s not possible in its current location.”

Charles made the proposal to use Legion Park as a possible location for a new library building. The surrounding park would still be used for activities.
“No plans have been made to do anything regarding the current library,” he emphasized. “We’re asking the council to help us consider this as a possibility.”
Council member Gibbs also updated fellow members on progress in organizing the Regional Economic Development Committee. Panhandle communities that have agreed to join so far include Scotts Bluff County, Gering, Scottsbluff, Terrytown, Minatare, Mitchell, Bridgeport, Bayard, Kimball, Morrill, Lyman, Henry, McGrew and Melbeta.
Council members voted in favor of having the mayor sign the interlocal agreement creating the board.

Before adjourning from a 2.5 hour session, Mayor Tony Kaufman praised the city’s staff and administrators for their work in preparing for the possibility of damage due to predicted recent flooding throughout the area.
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