Forum shows promise of downtown square

A design for a potential downtown square on the corner of Sims and Villard

A design for a proposed Dickinson downtown square was reveled Tuesday at a public forum. More than 50 people attended the event presented by Dickinson Downtown Association and hosted by Dickinson Public Library. Representatives from Dickinson – based JLG Architects showed designs based on input taken from community members at a public forum held March 27.

The community, through priority voting sessions, were asked to consider, “What would bring you and your family downtown?” said Zach Mathern, JLG Architects. The response: They wanted music and entertainment, a farmer’s market, outdoor dining, and dancing, among other features and qualities.
Renderings showed the corner of Sims Avenue and Villard Street as an open, verdant space with a kinetic art piece welcoming the community at the corner. Continuing along Villard is a children’s play space with a dinosaur-themed interactive shelter and water areas.

In the center of the plaza is a crowd space and a performance stage. Farther along Sims, there is a shelter space with outdoor dining and fire pits, and strings of bulbs like stars. The shelter would exploit an existing building, which would be renovated to keep only the façade.
The plaza would have a total capacity of roughly 2,000 people. With Sims closed for events, it could host as many as 4,000 people. From the plaza, on the east side of Sims, a mid-block crossing leads to an artist’s alley located between Brickhouse Grill and Bernie’s Esquire Club.

The downtown square provides opportunities for business and community partnerships, said JLG Architect Rob Remark. “We’re hoping to get people excited around this project,” he said. “Projects like these are community projects. They’re not something that can be done just by one or two groups. It takes people with creative ideas and energy coming together.” Remark outlined the history of the project, which began in 2012 with a downtown mater plan crafted by V3 Studios of Portland, Oregon. These plans proposed a downtown square.

With the community input gathered and design presented, a fundraising campaign will now begin, followed by finalized designs and the start of construction. Asked about parking on Sims, JLG Architect Craig Ruhland said parallel Parking would remain on both sides of the street. Concerns were also voiced about where people would park for such popular events. “If you have a vibrant downtown space, I think people will figure out how to get down there,” Ruhland said. “I think that’s part of a successful urban environment.”

Mayor Scott Decker applauded the community’s participation at both forums. “I’m so happy to see all the people who are turning out for these forums,” he said. “It’s an amazing turnout.” DDA executive director Jennifer strange lauded the designs presented. “JLG did a stellar job capturing the input the public offered two months ago,” she said. “The two rounds of applause we heard tonight indicate the public felt they have been heard, and it sounds to me like people are having some nice comments about the design.” She added, “We’re really excited about it.”

City commissioner Klayton Oltmanns, a member of the Downtown Task Force, said he valued the community’s input and how the project is progressing. “There’s still a lot of work ahead,” he said. “The Downtown Association, JLG, the city, Parks & Recreation, there’s a lot of entities working on this.”