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San Marcos to receive award for enhancement of pedestrian realm

Photo by:Daryl Ontiveros | Staff Photographer
The American Planning Association (APA) is set to award the city of San Marcos with the 2015 Current Planning Award.

San Martians are not the only ones to notice an enhancement of the pedestrian realm in the downtown area.

The American Planning Association (APA) is set to award the city of San Marcos with this year’s Current Planning Award Oct. 9 in Galveston for the city’s Sidewalk Cafés, Parklets and Similar Special Uses of Public Right-of-Way Ordinance and Pilot program.

The program, launched in August , allows for creation of new sidewalk cafés and small parks in unused public right-of-ways.
The award is given to cities with an “outstanding” ordinance program or process directed to the implementation of a plan, according to APA nomination documents.

Andrea Villalobos, planning technician for the City of San Marcos, said the award for the program is well deserved because it “really activates” a pedestrian-friendly environment.

“Really, it is a public-private type of partnership to allow the private side and the city to work together and to do good things downtown,” Villalobos said.

Stephanie Bryant, member of the downtown design committee, said a parklet is “great” because it serves as public space for residents to interact with one another.

“It’s a way to show the community that (downtown businesses are) involved and they’re for the citizens,” Bryant said. “It will be a really good way to branch between the private businesses and the rest of the community.”

Villalobos said the program is a “beautification outreach” that members of city council have been promoting since its adoption in August.

“(The program) really did come from trying to make the best use of our downtown, and working together with business owners to allow them to prosper from that,” Villalobos said. “I think it also works with trying to create a pedestrian-oriented environment downtown.”

Bryant said the ordinance works as a private-public relationship between businesses owners and their customers.

“This is like a private business owner choosing to help beautify downtown and help really make an investment for the public,” Bryant said. “Private business owners will be able to use the public realm to improve the space for their patrons as well as city residents and visitors.”

Bryant said a “huge variety” of businesses already occupy public space through the program. The sidewalk cafes and parklets welcome more visitors to the downtown area.

“This is kind of just a great way to encourage more businesses,” Bryant said. “Anywhere that you see people coming and going frequently. Any business could benefit from expanding into the public space.”

Bryant said the program is an opportunity for growth among new businesses.

“(The ordinance) is something that the design committee supports in the sense that it’ll give businesses a greater economic impact as well as serving the community around them,” Bryant said.

Villalobos said she believes the program allows downtown to have “character and walkability” so more pedestrians feel comfortable visiting businesses in the area.

“It goes without saying that all the people that visit downtown will really benefit from this as well,” Bryant said. “I think it’s a win-win situation for the businesses and the citizens alike.”