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Editorial: Vermillion Street plan needs to be strong, proactive

This year marks the start of what could be a major redevelopment project. The city is searching out a consultant to help develop a master plan for the Vermillion Street Corridor.

We don't know yet exactly what this master plan will say. We don't know exactly what it will include. But we do know that it is intended to work for the benefit of local businesses and to improve the aesthetics of one of the city's primary sources of traffic.

Whatever the city comes up with over the course of the year, we're hopeful that it will be successful. But a little caution is warranted; this isn't the first time that the city has tried to create a road map for the corridor. The Vermillion Street Corridor Development Guidelines, completed in 2008, set out with a similar aim. That plan, however, has not produced much in the way of proactive change. Rather, it has been used as a guide whenever new private development has come to Vermillion Street.

We hope this new master plan doesn't follow in the footsteps of its predecessor. We need a strong master plan with well-thought-out development principles that will stand the test of time. We need a plan that can't be easily disregarded just because one individual project has a different vision. We need a plan that helps establish or maintain unique characteristics of the corridor while also recognizing where variation is necessary. We need a plan that can be invoked not only when one business wants to affect change, but whenever change needs to happen.

For this to happen, we also need a plan that's created with the help of more than just a few people. Business owners need to weigh in and make sure the city understands their needs and the challenges they face and how those can be balanced with city goals. Consumers need to tell the city what features and types of development they're looking for. Residents need to communicate how this corridor affects their quality of life. Visitors need to explain what makes them stop here, and what causes them to keep driving. The city does a good job of creating opportunities for public input on its projects, and we're confident that practice will continue with Vermillion Street planning. We hope that the public takes advantage of those opportunities, as well as reach out to local elected officials and city staff, to make suggestions, offer feedback and help the city achieve a balanced, effective approach to reinventing this critical corridor. And, in the absence of volunteers, we encourage the city to actively seek out those people and their ideas.