Weekly Feature

2017-08-09 / Front Page

Street festival to showcase Vision: Main Street plan

by ETHAN POWERS
Editor

Clarence’s “Vision: Main Street” plan hopes to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment for the town’s main thoroughfare that is also conducive to commercial development. The problem is that residents have difficulty visualizing such prospects when driving down Main Street in its current form.

The town’s Planning and Zoning departments hope to change that through a street festival that will serve as both an informational session and a concept visualization fair that will give residents a more tangible look at what a revitalized Main Street could look like.

The “Connecting Clarence Street Festival” will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, on Nottingham Terrace at Main. Residents will be encouraged to leave their vehicles behind while they sample fare from The Cheesy Chick and Gianni Mazias on Main, as well as libations from West Shore Brewing Company.

Clarence businesses will set up booths and tents to create a “pop-up street experience.” Clarence Town Heritage will also run an Old Country Store, complete with penny candy for children.

According to Jonathan Bluer, junior planner for the town, the idea for the festival was built in the essence of Williamsville’s “Picture Main Street” event, and while Clarence hoped to host its event on Main Street, it became logistically unfeasible. Yet, the Planning Department knew that a physical event would lend credence to the concepts outlined on paper through Vision: Main Street.

“The plan really lays out Main Street in unique sections: the Hollow, Harris Hill, and then the buffer agrarian, more natural areas,” said Bluer. “These are places that if we have to have development, it’s going to be more breathable. Things will be set back farther. It’s important that when people drive down Main Street, they still get a sense of our agrarian heritage.”

Bluer added that in contrast, the area between Thompson and Goodrich roads could lend itself to denser development.

The Vision: Main Street plan, expected to be adopted at tonight’s Town Board meeting and absorbed into the themes and overall projection of the town’s comprehensive plan, provides a variety of recommendations related to land use and development, streetscape and zoning.

Bluer said the Planning Department found it important to honor the town’s past through the festival while displaying the future.

“We didn’t want to focus the festival just on Harris Hill where it will be located. We wanted to include the whole town,” he said. “At this point, Harris Hill is kind of a neglected area. There’s not much identity to it. They have that historically, but it’s lost.”

In an attempt to re-create some of that lost identity, the Planning Department will pay homage to the site on which the festival will be held. The two dilapidated pillars standing on Main Street near Nottingham once made for a grand entrance to the Harris Hill Gardens, or a neighborhood known as “Morlando.” The Planning Department will hang large banners on the pillars to show residents what a rebuild might look like.

“The people in that community are going to drive by next week, and they’re going to see what our intent is in really bringing back Harris Hill,” Bluer said.

The potential rebirth of the Harris Hill area, Bluer noted, could contribute to the vision of a walkable, identifiable Clarence that was until just a few years ago an impractical pipe dream. The Planning Department is hoping that such a vision — under the tagline “Unite. Restore. Advance.”— is closer to reality than fiction.

“We’re going to chalk out different components of what a complete street will look like, one that is for all modes of transportation where people are not just zooming by in a car, not necessarily seeing what’s to the left or the right of them,” said Bluer. “This is going to be a great way for residents to see, in visual form, the Vision Main Street plan, what the town wants to see, and ultimately, what the residents themselves want to see moving forward.”

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