Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article erroneously identified the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce as the driver of the Aggieville revitalization plan. That mistake has been ameliorated. The Collegian regrets this error.
The city of Manhattan plans to proceed with redevelopment of the south side of Bluemont Avenue and 12th Street between Bluemont Avenue and Moro Street.
Deputy City Manager Jason Hilgers said the plan eliminates traditional curbs as well as parking stalls on both sides of 12th Street, replacing them with brick pavers. The street will remain open to two-way traffic when construction is completed.
The plan also allows for new lighting, landscaping, shade structures, trees, planters, outdoor seating and bollards, which provide an option to close down the street for special events.
“We are way past due, but we’ve had an Aggieville vision project in the works for probably almost 10 years,” Dennis Cook, director of the Aggieville Business Association, said. “[We have] the idea of redeveloping Aggieville into something that’s a little bit more up to date, a little bit more inviting.”
The redevelopment of 12th Street and the south side of Bluemont is expected to cost a little more than $1.7 million. In total, Hilgers said the city is looking at investing over $30 million in Aggieville through this project, which will provide for many more improvements including a new parking garage.
“In the comprehensive plan there’s an option for a new parking garage that is currently under final design,” Hilgers said. “We anticipate action from the commission later this summer or early next fall to … authorize us to go ahead and construct the parking garage. It will have 450 new spaces in the garage, so the 10 stalls that are being taken off 12th will be replaced there.”
Jason Smith, president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber is interested in retaining students and attracting young professionals to Manhattan to encourage growth in the community and economy.
“We have to make sure that we are making the proper investments that show that we are the kind of community that you can live in while you go to school, and then also stay in when you graduate,” Smith said.
Smith said he hopes the changes are practical for the district, but also attract new businesses to make Aggieville an all-day destination and bring in more visitors.
“[People] need an exciting, invigorating entertainment district, and to do that we need to be redeveloped,” Cook said. “So I think it’s now in everybody’s interest — the city, the chamber — to get this work going.”
With all phases of the plan included, Hilgers said redevelopment and construction will take around five to seven years.
“We’re going to do everything we can to have [businesses] hold on and still be successful during construction, but after the construction’s over with and we have this redeveloped, I think Aggieville is going to hit a real growth spurt again,” Cook said.
Cook said the brick pavers, landscaping and outdoor seating on the south side of Bluemont Avenue will provide a much more prominent entrance to Aggieville.
“What I’ve discovered in talking to people that … went to school here or have visited here, [is] that Aggieville holds a special place with most of them,” Smith said. “I think that we have to make sure that we don’t allow for the infrastructure to deteriorate to such a point that it can’t live up to that promise anymore.”
In the meantime, Cook said he encourages people to continue supporting Aggieville by attending the St. Patrick’s Day parade and race on March 14 and Fake Patty’s Day on March 21.
“We would like to invite everybody to come on down and be a part of Aggieville,” Cook said.