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PENN YAN   ADVERTISEMENT

Charrette focuses on waterfront, downtown

    PENN YAN—More than 80 village residents turned out for the Penn Yan Community Design Charrette facilitated by the Rochester Regional Community Design Center (RRCDR) Saturday, Nov. 3, during which residents expressed a desire for future improvements made to the downtown area and areas surrounding the Keuka Outlet. These ideas as well as the several other ideas to come out of the charrette are to be compiled into a vision plan for Penn Yan and then presented to the village for potential adoption by the town to be used as a catalyst for ideas moving forward.
    The event split community members into small groups, each discussing different ideas for one of seven different focus areas: gateways and wayfinding, waterfront development and connections, downtown core, housing and mixed use development, newer commercial and community development, preservation through architectural and environmental design guidelines, and transportation and connections. Each group was led by a licensed architect, planner or designer who guided community members on how to formulate their ideas and helped put them down on paper.
    Some of the key ideas revolving around waterfront development were a seamless walking trail encompassing the entire perimeter of the Keuka Outlet, bike paths around the outlet as well as in the village, kayak and canoe rental facilities, a boardwalk, a pier, and an amphitheater down by Red Jacket Park. Presenter Lynn Waytowicz said the main goal of many of these ideas is to “try to create a business friendly, as well as recreational friendly environment.”
    “The key idea that came out of our conversation is development of the waterfront needs to be the key economic magnet to draw people here,” President of the Keuka Lake Association Bill Laffin said.
    Downtown was another key area focused on by groups, with the main ideas including the utilization of the second and third story spaces in buildings along Main Street, preserving historic buildings and appeal, improving the sidewalks in the village, creating a bike lane, improving signage along storefronts, installing signs pointing traffic to parking areas, burying power lines below ground, creating unified lighting throughout the village, and planting more trees to create a more green spaces.
    Many complaints about downtown Penn Yan were that several of the buildings did not seem to fit in with the historic visual appeal of other buildings, and that future commercial development in the area should be regulated to conform to village standards. The intersections at Elm and Liberty Streets and Lake and Liberty Streets were used as examples of what was to be avoided, with big box-shaped stores, gas stations and power lines hanging across the streets.
    More than 100 different ideas came out of the 16 total groups, with many issues touched on both conflicting as well as overlapping with other groups. RRCDR Executive Director Joni Monroe said the power of getting community members together is incredible, and that even though many of the ideas that come out of the charrette may not be practical, it is still a good way to get the community involved in the future of their village.
    “To plan is good, to envision is good, but it all comes down to finance,” planning board member Richard Pierle said. “Today, we aren’t here to worry about finance.”
    After a brief introduction and history of Penn Yan by Yates County Historian Frances Dumas, group facilitators led their teams out into the village to visit sights of concern and discuss ways the village could be improved. Upon returning from their journey, each group wrote down their ideas and laid them out on provided maps before presenting them to the rest of the audience.
    RRCDR President Roger Brown said after the charrette, the next step in the process is to form a design group and bring the ideas to a steering committee to help come up with a physical manifestation of the plan. He said he anticipates this to happen “right after the holidays.”
    Monroe said the group will take all the information gathered at the charrette back to Rochester and develop a vision plan around it, focusing on eight to ten of the defining guiding principles that cover the spirit of the ideas to come out of the event. She said the information would then go into booklet form and become the basis for strategic planning in the village. Monroe said vision planning begins in January, with a final presentation of the information coming sometime in late spring.
    “All of these people are very engaged,” Monroe said about the charrette participants. “What we are trying to do is give them a sense of feeling confident. We will see some trends today, see some things that are very different as well as some commonalities.”
    Owner of the Best Western Vineyard Inn and Suites in Penn Yan Brian Zerges said $28,500 was raised for the event from private businesses, organizations and foundations, and that $15,000 still needs to be raised to cover the vision planning process.