Snider Plaza, which opened in 1927, can keep its “mom-and-pop feel” and remain a family-friendly place to spend time while adding more restaurants, outdoor seating, and sidewalk amenities, a consultant says.
“Snider Plaza should be something that you couldn’t get off Amazon, and that’s all about the experience, and that experience is about walkability,” said Paris Rutherford of the Catalyst Group. “That’s what we’re after here.”
Working on behalf of the city of University Park, Rutherford has laid out in virtual meetings a vision for the shopping center at the corner of Hillcrest Avenue and Lovers Lane.
Public input has focused on transforming Snider Plaza from a “transactional place, where you just drive up, you walk into the store to get whatever it is you’re going to get, and then go back to a car and then leave, into a place you can stay for a bit longer,” he said.
With more restaurants and amenities, “there’s a place you can come for the whole family,” he said. “You can bicycle there if you want to… but there’re more reasons to be in what is effectively our downtown.”
To that end, Rutherford envisions a trellis or pavilion and outdoor seating at intersections and enough parking to accommodate more eateries.
“If that corner becomes a restaurant over time, you can imagine them pulling some umbrellas out over that seating,” he said. “If you look in the middle at the Snider Common, what we’re calling the common space, right now, there’s some parking in there. We’ve got a couple of existing trees. We’re adding to those trees and providing some small pavilions as well that can be pop-ups for folks that have good ideas – small businesses.”
The city engaged Rutherford in 2018 to facilitate public meetings to identify improvements and make follow-up recommendations. The city hired Pacheco Koch civil engineers, acting on those recommendations, to design water and sewer replacement expected to begin later this year.
The city since re-engaged the Catalyst Group to facilitate the detailed design of related landscape and other amenity improvements working with Space Between Landscape Studio.
Rutherford said goals for a concept plan, per the 2008 task force recommendations, include more shading, clearly identified crosswalks, defined entries, and a pedestrian- friendly design that helps residential and commercial coexist.
City Manager Robbie Corder said the plan would come back before the city council with additional opportunities for public input.
“We’ll continue to build on this plan going into the summer as well,” Corder said. “We’re not there yet and, quite frankly, we don’t have a timeline for that yet. This virus probably will build in some additional conversations about when is the appropriate time to go into Snider Plaza.”
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