Revitalization Study Concluded; Councilors Briefed

Conceptual drawings concerning potential redevelopment of downtown Tappahannock were presented by Summit Design and Engineering Services at last week’s Town Council work session.

Conceptual drawings concerning potential redevelopment of downtown Tappahannock were presented by Summit Design and Engineering Services at last week’s Town Council work session.

The Tappahannock Town Council and Planning Commission were briefed last week regarding a Downtown Revitalization Plan that was recently completed by a consulting firm.

Summit Design and Engineering began its work in June of 2022 and completed its task in February.

The plan is still awaiting a preliminary engineering report which is a foundational study of the plan’s potential projects that estimate feasibility and cost.

Michael Staper, a planner for Summit, led the briefing. He noted that the plan is conceptual in nature and that the economic restructuring plan could be summarized by six “core principles’’:

1. “Start small” and build up. Focus first on small projects that work to implement the whole, utilize affordable materials to act quickly. Use momentum to tackle large projects.

2. Pedestrian and bicycle safety are key. If everyone were to start arriving in Downtown Tappahannock tomorrow by car, it would be congested, loud, and unsafe. Everyone who is local should be able to reach their Downtown safely through walking or biking.

3. Test and implement ideas. The community may have thousands of ideas for the Downtown, including exhibits, events, games, or other activities that can help revitalize the area. Be flexible, and assist them in testing out new ideas.

4. Improve and make permanent over time. Once different activities or ideas are identified as working, week to improve them with more permanent and easy to maintain materials.

5. Big projects for many users. Utilize the implementation of “big projects” like a new pier to serve as many functions as possible. For example, a fishing pier can be an observation deck, a kayak launch, or other functions if designed for it. Projects should try to attract as many different types of people as possible to Downtown.

6. Connect with the world. Social media and other forms of communication can assist Tappahannock in sharing its progress with other like-minded communities. Good ideas from other areas might be easily transferred to the Town.”

The document provides suggestions for three areas to create a people-friendly downtown: Prince Street, Waterfront, and Church Lane/Queen Street.

Some of the short-term priorities for each component of the study include:

Prince Street

• Installation of planters of varying sizes;

• Painting asphalt with murals or other colors consistent with the entire street (if permitted by the Virginia Department of Transportation);

• Installation of grouped outdoor street furniture in several areas;

• Activate the street with temporary vendors and activities;

• Create a volunteer corps to assist in painting, construction, and ongoing maintenance of Prince Street and the Waterfront Park. Waterfront

• Build a new “adventure” playground structure at the park;

• Install varied, colorful, and creative seating elements;

• Construct an amphitheater seating area and platform;

• Implement “living shoreline” protections for the water’s edge;

• Seek abandonment of the end of Prince Street and Newbill Drive right of way for the implementation of a complete park design;

• Implement creatively designed lighting installations.

Queen Street/Church Lane

• Install public art or Downtown gateway at the intersection of Queen Street and Water Lane;

• Ensure there are safe and comfortable accommodations for bicycles and pedestrians should the redesign of Queen Street and Water Lane be allowed;

• Facade improvements;

• Replace signage which is auto oriented in scale; consolidate or made pedestrian scale.

Moreover, the plan includes a branding plan to include potential logos, promotional materials, wayfinding signage, and marketing strategies.

The plan also pitches potential new events for the downtown.

During his remarks, Staper noted that a survey performed by Summit revealed there is “not much to do” in downtown.

The report also addresses the fire that destroyed nearly an entire block of Prince Street in July 2022.

“It is important that redevelopment of this area borrows from key characteristics of its historic footprint,” the report says. “The narrow buildings had many storefronts that fronted onto Prince Street. Throughout Tappahannock’s history, this allowed for many reasons to come to downtown. If redevelopment has only one restaurant take up an entire corner, for instance, the Town is losing the opportunity for many diverse uses along its main corridor through Downtown.”

The report suggests that allowing taller buildings in downtown will yield more opportunities such as:

• Incentivizing redevelopment to recover more quickly;

• Allowing for more housing, office, or commercial space;

• Enabling more interesting building design, such as interior atriums, courtyard space, active rooftops, or other features;

• Buffering the core of Downtown from noise pollution from Church Lane and Queen Street;

• Providing an opportunity for eye-catching architecture or other gateway features as people come across the bridge into Town.

“We’re really excited for the future of Tappahannock and this is a first step towards action,” Staper said. “It has so much potential.”

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