Old Town Looking to City for Help

     Business owners, workers and residents in Homer’s Old Town neighborhood are pushing for safety improvements in the historic area. The Bunnell Street Art Center has taken the lead on the project and wants more help from the city.

     Staff members from Bunnell have been working with the city’s planning department and the state department of transportation for the last several months. Old Town Development Coordinator Brianna Allen presented the plan to the city council during its meeting last week. She said the focus is to make the neighborhood more walkable and safer while playing up the area’s culture.

     “Our Old Town values are creative planning, safe pedestrian culture, visitor friendly recreational opportunities, traffic calming, more green space, more art and more artistic amenities,” she said.

     She said the neighborhood also could use more outdoor lighting and seating to make it a more welcoming area. Allen said she would like to see traffic slowed down with an increase in bike and pedestrian paths.

     The speed limit around Old Town is currently 25 mph and there’s one sign for traffic leaving Bishops Beach. Allen said there’s one crosswalk and five different access points. She also pointed out there are absolutely no pedestrian-use signs. The folks in Old Town have some specific changes in mind.

     “We’d like to see 15 mph speed limits, three additional crosswalks and pedestrian pathways, nine pedestrian use signs, two removable speed bumps, Bishops Beach parking maintenance, and assistance with dirt work along the art center as soon as possible. This will immediately act as a beginning springboard to plant our edible landscaping visions throughout the neighborhood,” she said.

     Crosswalks, signs, decreased speed limit, space for art and removable speed bumps… that’s where the city comes in. Allen said the project should cost a little more than $75,000. But the city wouldn’t need to pay for everything. Bunnell just received an ArtPlace grant totaling $150,000. That can be used for some aspects of the project. 

     ArtPlace is a national program that will allow Old Town to essentially become a neighborhood-sized canvas. Bunnell plans to find five artists who will move to Homer for two months and create. Allen said a partnership with the city could make Homer an example to other towns throughout Alaska. 

     “This is a change for us to team up and co-create. Artists working side-by-side along with local government and urban planners spark economic vibrancy by directing growth around aesthetics, public stewardship and safety,” she said.

     Michael Walsh works in Old Town and is a big supporter of the project. He said traffic in the neighborhood is at an all-time high and wants this plan to move forward.

     “There’s no walkability whatsoever down there. I’m sure some of you have just been down there recently and seen the speed of the cars driving with no speed bumps and no speed limits. So it’s a very important issue for the safety of pedestrians and for Old Town,” he said.

     Allen said the majority of neighbors and businesses are for the changes. The council took no action on the matter during its meeting.