Williams presented his “Urban Veranda Concept” to Downtown Development Authority board members Thursday during their monthly meeting. The renderings, created by architect firm URS, show sodded areas, sculptures and trellises over the middle sunken parking sections on Broad Street between Eighth and Ninth streets. The plan also incorporates a misting station, seating areas and a “water wall” on two sides of the James Brown statue.
“It’s just a concept,” Williams said. “I’m just trying to think out of the box. I’m trying to do something that will attract people to downtown.”
In his previous stint as a commissioner, Williams proposed several plans he thought would enhance the city, including building a dragstrip off Hephzibah-McBean Road and adding music and lights to the James Brown statue.
The estimated cost for the veranda project is $3 million, with funding provided through the 1 percent transportation sales tax, Williams said.
“I guess my only concern is tying it in to all of Broad Street downtown,” said Sanford Loyd, a development authority board member.
The authority’s director, Margaret Woodard, said many downtown business owners whom she’s spoken with love the idea, but some did voice concerns about the structure’s height and money for its maintenance.
Dustin Lucas, a senior artist at Lucky 7 Tattoo at 820 Broad St., hadn’t heard of the proposal but said it sounded interesting.
“Anything along that vein couldn’t hurt,” Lucas said. “Broad Street needs every bit of help it can get. It doesn’t sound like a negative thing.”
Next door, Noura Gordon manages Pyramid Music & Video, which has been in the 800 block of Broad Street for 45 years. She agreed that the idea could be a good one.
“The way it sounds, it sounds like a great beautifying project,” Gordon said.
Williams said the existing parking areas wouldn’t change, although the raised green space would only be tall enough for an “average truck” to park underneath. He said the design would require that some trees be removed.
The commissioner envisions full lighting and security cameras on the property.
The upstairs space would run the length of both parking lots and could be entered on either end by stairs or a ramp for wheelchair accessibility. The conceptual drawings also show staircases built near the statue in the middle and an overhead pedestrian walk.
“This is something where people can have weddings upstairs,” Williams said.
Williams said he has discussed the plans with Mayor Deke Copenhaver, city engineers and several commissioners, who are on board with the project. He said he plans to talk with more residents and the “general public” before presenting anything to the full commission.
“I want the community to wrap their arms around this,” Williams said. “I want the community to say this is what we need.”