Downtown Fredericksburg intersections along Amelia Street could one day include beacons to help connect the city visually to the Rappahannock River.
That’s one of the suggestions that Streetsense, a Washington design and strategy firm hired by the city, has come up with to leverage the assets of historic downtown and its four surrounding neighborhoods’ assets and provide solutions to its deficits.
It found that people are “deeply passionate” about Fredericksburg’s positive aspects during its site analysis, market assessment and the five-day charrette it held to get public opinions, Colin Greene, who leads Streetsense’s Urban Design + Planning Group, said during a public meeting held Tuesday to present its findings and concepts so far for what the city has designated as Small Area Plan 7.
The asset most people mentioned first is the Rappahannock. While it’s an incredible asset, it’s not like most other riverfronts. It doesn’t have working waterfront or a grand boardwalk that everyone can use, and it can get flooded and turn brown, he told the roughly 75 residents, city officials and staff who’d gathered in the vacant Planters Bank at 1001 Princess Anne St.
Streetsense came up with the idea of adding beacons as a low-tech way to highlight it and bring people down to the riverfront for events and to connect with the trail system, Greene said. The beacons could be designed and created locally, and be installed incrementally.
“Not a wholesale change, but when you think about it as a holistic idea of improvement, we could do a few of these things at the ends of streets and really start to incorporate the idea that you have a river into the fabric of the city,” he said.
Greene also suggested creating a waterfront trail from Amelia Street to City Dock so people could better see and experience the Rappahannock. He noted that some of the land involved is privately owned, and access would have to be worked out.
“As an aspirational goal, the way to actually experience or be near the water, not necessarily on it, from a public perspective could benefit the entire community instead of people who just happen to live right at the water’s edge,” he said.
Streetsense also identified six other assets: the historic district, walkable streets, public spaces, retail nodes, a wide variety of residential housing and, eventually, a new train station.
Greene said he and others from the firm have talked with city staff about downtown’s one-way streets and the issues that come along with that. Some are positive, with benefits such as providing space for drivers to get around delivery trucks servicing businesses along Caroline Street.
The downside, however, is that one-way streets can lead to speeding in residential areas. He said that making Princess Anne a two-way street in residential areas, for example, could help calm traffic. Making a couple other downtown streets such as Amelia two-way would also help tourists get around the city better and keep people from having to go around the block to get where they want to go.
Other suggestions for improving traffic included making better use of Trolley Tours of Fredericksburg’s trolleys by promoting the idea of using them to get to events downtown, and doing a better job of publicizing where people can park so they don’t have to hunt for a space.
“It’s a bummer to get to a parking lot and see that small sign that says you can’t park there,” Greene said.
Streetsense’s recommendations also include adding more streetlights to make walking at night safer, providing more connections to the city’s trails, and providing crosswalks to make it easier for people living on the south side of Lafayette Boulevard to walk to things on the north side of the street.
“It’s not downtown, but it could be an improved neighborhood corridor for those near it,” Green said. “Then they can use your trails. It’s a great network, but it’s hard to get to.”
Streetsense is 80 percent finished with its recommendations, which will be presented to the City Council in a few months. Suggestions are still be accepted, and can be emailed to Mike Craig, the city’s senior planner, at firstname.lastname@example.org.