The idea of closing Front Avenue to increase pedestrian safety in front of the Coeur d’Alene Resort has resurfaced.
Hagadone Corp. officials recently rejuvenated the proposal when Front Avenue property owners met to discuss potential improvements to the downtown street, which is often used by drivers wanting to avoid the congestion and traffic signals on Sherman Avenue.
The asphalt on Front is no longer repairable and the street needs a complete replacement. City Project Coordinator Renata McLeod said it’s the appropriate time to ask the handful of property owners between Sherman Avenue and Seventh Street whether they would want to form a local improvement district to pay for enhancements such as decorative street lamps, irrigation for street trees, and concrete intersections. No cost projections or specific plans have been made.
Hagadone spokesman John Barlow didn’t attend the Jan. 20 meeting but sent a letter to the city stating that the company still wants to close Front, between Sherman Avenue and Third Street. The street would remain open to emergency vehicles and drivers going to the resort.
“This would solve some safety problems for pedestrians, as well as the loading issues,” Barlow wrote in the Feb. 3 letter.
Neither Barlow nor resort owner Duane Hagadone was available for comment Monday.
The short stretch of Front is often used as a loading zone by delivery trucks servicing the resort and nearby shops.
This isn’t the first time Hagadone has raised the issue of closing Front. A larger plan proposed last year would have shut down two blocks of Sherman Avenue and the same section of Front for a $20 million memorial garden and resort expansion. Some merchants feared the rerouting of downtown traffic would hurt Sherman Avenue businesses.
After months of controversy, Hagadone pulled the garden proposal in December. Hagadone has said he still plans to eventually expand the Coeur d’Alene Resort by building a new tower of rooms within the next five years, depending on the market.
The tower could be built either on top of the A.G. Edwards Building on the northwest corner of Sherman and Front, or over the resort’s convention center and Casco Bay rooms. Neither plan would depend on the closure of Sherman.
Hagadone has said that closing Front is still a good idea because the street remains dangerous for pedestrians trying to get from the resort to Sherman.
The Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association said it would probably support such a closure.
McLeod said she’s unsure when the Front Avenue property owners will meet to discuss any improvement plans or the potential street closure.
“Certainly this is just the beginning of a planning process,” McLeod said. “We want to involve the property owners whatever the vision is.”
During the Jan. 20 meeting, McLeod said, property owners wanted to know more about projected costs and the status of the city’s plans to make improvements to McEuen Field, which runs the south side of Front.
In 2002, the city and a citizens advisory committee adopted a narrative and drawing to revamp the popular park, including eliminating the baseball field.
City officials have promised they won’t do away with the field until another location is found.
Downtown Association spokeswoman Carrie Cook said the group hopes improvements to Front will help spark movement on the McEuen project, which would include reshaping the parking lot and sinking it into the ground to allow better view of the park from Front.
“The property owners want a guarantee McEuen is really going to happen,” Cook said.
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