Alternatives considered for embattled ‘Streetscape’ design

By Bob Hembree
Posted 2/28/24

The idea of uptown revitalization began years ago; it gained a sense of urgency when Navajo Generating Station closed. Forward-thinking community leaders and business owners knew something had to be …

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Alternatives considered for embattled ‘Streetscape’ design


The idea of uptown revitalization began years ago; it gained a sense of urgency when Navajo Generating Station closed. Forward-thinking community leaders and business owners knew something had to be done to keep Page alive. They knew the consequences of a small town losing a major industry, hundreds of jobs, and the tax base needed to support its infrastructure, public safety services and maintenance. The basics, and the quality of life enhancements like a library, parks, special events, and activities for young and old, all depend on a healthy local economy. The topic comes up time and time again in city council meetings. This is the driving force behind the idea of revitalization. Over the years the project names change, but the central goal is the same. It’s not necessarily about a particular street or block. It’s the big picture for a small town.

In the past year, efforts to begin revitalization in uptown Page have come under fire. Some, who hadn’t followed public council meetings or project presentations, felt blindsided. To complicate the matter, misinformation and skewed interpretations clouded public perception. Council members acknowledged the need for better communications, especially with businesses directly affected by proposed improvements and changes. City staff did attempt to get the word out with a variety of means, including post office bulletin board notices, power bill inserts, newspaper notices and social media posts. Citizen comments in council meetings suggest, for some, the efforts went unnoticed.

Blowback on “Streetscape,” a conceptual design prepared and titled by J2 Design (J2), despite all the division and stress created, did encourage residents to pay closer attention and to participate in city council meetings. Still, anyone who has followed council meetings over the years knows the hurdles word-of-mouth misinformation or cherry-picked information creates.

Counselor Brian Carey provided Lake Powell Chronicle with a copy of the prepared speech he delivered at the Feb. 14 Page City Council meeting. In it, he writes, “We understand that the level of outreach was not perfect and that the Covid pause in planning handicapped the outreach efforts, and have taken actions already to do a better job next time. Witness the new website improvements, the digital sign that will soon go active, and other communication improvements.”

Time and time again, in Chronicle news reporting based on multiple interviews with City Manager Darren Coldwell and his department directors, the constant topic, the running theme, is communication challenges and how the city is addressing it. Information is readily available to those willing to seek it on the city’s website.

Words matter, especially when they attempt to condense big concepts into bite size chunks. Labels like ‘global warming,’ ‘greenhouse effect,’ and ‘climate change’ are all attempts to simplify complex subjects for nonscientists. J2’s labeling their design ‘Streetscape’ may be convenient shorthand for those involved, but it falls short when all the aspects of town revitalization are considered. It’s more than narrowing a street and widening sidewalks. ‘Streetscape’ doesn’t communicate the design’s central aspects like infrastructure, economics, safety and quality of life. ‘Streetscape’ is a weak metaphor for a big subject.

Carey, fully aware of the title’s shortcomings, writes, “We understand that the term “streetscape” was not encompassing enough for what was being discussed at the public meetings, and I am encouraging staff to start labeling these multiphase projects as “Downtown Revitalization Phase 1” or similar, since we will be having discussions on other projects affecting these core blocks.”

City staff immediately took Carey’s advice to heart. A public notice requesting bids published in last week’s Chronicle stated, “The City of Page, Arizona is seeking bids from qualified contractors for construction of the CITY OF PAGE DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION PHASE 1.

“The work consists of new curb, gutter, sidewalk, utility relocation, decorative asphalt, irrigation and landscaping, traffic signal and intersection lighting, and additional concrete structures on Lake Powell BLVD between N. Navajo [Street] and Vista Ave. in the City of Page boundaries.”

The Chronicle spoke with counselor Mike Farrow at length about misperceptions, alternatives and the city’s communication challenges.

“Several of us have been looking at alternatives,” said Farrow. “We were never really convinced everything was ready to go up Lake Powell [Blvd.] all the way. So we were looking at who would be receptive. And if you look at North Navajo, it's already essentially two lanes there – a super wide two lanes. It already has a number of eating places. It already has a number of things that draw people that direction. So it's already receptive, because several of those people said that businesses were receptive of something going in that direction. And it's a smaller project, and it's not as extreme. That allows us to mature our thinking of other alternatives.”

Farrow and Carey both referred to the section on North Navajo between Lake Powell Boulevard and Aero Drive. That part of N. Navajo Drive is roughly 5 inches wider than Lake Powell Boulevard. In addition to restaurants, there are businesses catering to tourism, like Lake Powell Vacations/Kelly’s Sugar House, owned and operated by Kelly and Trent Sutherland.

In a past council meeting, Trent Sutherland voiced his support for going with the complete J2 design up Lake Powell Boulevard to S. Navajo. When asked about idea of going down the street his business is on, he said, “I love it either way! I believe it is better for the community and businesses if completed on Lake Powell Boulevard but would love seeing it on N. Navajo. I actually would love to see it on both streets.”

“It was our point all along that everybody was thinking this whole revitalization, or whatever we wanted to call it, was automatically going all the way up Lake Powell Boulevard,” said Farrow. “It was just a notional idea by J2. We, as council, have only OK’d that one small section, and that was from Vista to North Navajo. That's the only thing that's ever been factored in. So we're trying to change the narrative to a more working solution by, again, working with people. And all this is dependent on if we can get business owners to agree and get people excited about it. We're not trying to ram it down anybody's throat. A lot of people have been coming up and saying we are, and then they say we aren't listening. We have been listening.”

Farrow made it clear the idea of going up N. Navajo as an alternative is just that, an idea. “This is still just thinking. There's nothing digging, nothing coming up, there's no staking happening. There's none of that stuff. We still haven't seen the bids for the first part.”

Coldwell, who has taken some of the ‘Streetscape’ heat from a group of local protestors, told the Chronicle he likes the idea of going down N. Navajo. Several of the businesses on the street, like Sutherland’s, were supportive of the original design, so it’s anticipated they’ll support the change.

When Sutherland spoke at the Sept. 27. 2023 public meeting in support of the Lake Powell Boulevard proposal, he said in addition to the economic, safety and quality of life benefits, business owners would see their property values increase.

If a bid for phase 1 construction is within budget, and if council approves it, even the one block between Vista Avenue and N. Navajo Drive could have a positive influence further up Lake Powell Boulevard. Farrow said, “People come racing up that street, and it's going to be, ‘Hey, you're entering town.’ There'll be different things as you enter the town, different things to be aware of, better signage. So there's a number of factors that will help, but there has to be a balance here. The balance has to be local residents. Local businesses need to benefit from whatever we do. They need to be involved in whatever we do. Part of the excitement of our town is to make it where people are coming here, and they go, ‘Oh, wow, this is cool,’ and make it memorable for them.”