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'Excitement, potential' for Main Street plan

Mitchell's new-look Main Street is taking shape. About 45 people participated in an interactive public input forum regarding Mitchell's new Sixth Avenue plaza Thursday at the Mitchell Technical Institute to share thoughts and concerns about the p...

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Lyle Pudwill with Confluence Landscape Architecture & Urban Design out of Sioux Falls shows a slide asking members of the public to vote on a keypad that will give near instantaneous results during a public input session seeking input on ideas for the 6th Avenue Plaza Project on Thursday in the amphitheater at Mitchell Technical Institute. (Matt Gade/Republic)

Mitchell's new-look Main Street is taking shape.

About 45 people participated in an interactive public input forum regarding Mitchell's new Sixth Avenue plaza Thursday at the Mitchell Technical Institute to share thoughts and concerns about the proposed project.

Lyle Pudwill, of landscape architect Confluence, walked those in attendance through a series of potential designs and features that could be included in a full renovation of the 66-foot-wide area directly south of the Corn Palace. With $426,083 budgeted for the plaza in 2016, Pudwill said the company wanted to hear input from the community before committing to the project.

"What we want to avoid, and we certainly don't want to do, is design a vacuum and come up with a solution that isn't supported by the community," Pudwill said. "The reason we're doing this is to get your support and your feedback to create a space that's desireable to the community, because without that buy-in for implementation or for the future longevity of that space, it's not going to be successful."

Immediately after expressing the need for community support, Mitchell residents peppered Pudwill with comments and concerns about the project.

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Jeff Logan, the president of Mitchell Main Street & Beyond's Board of Directors, wanted to make sure the new project prioritized safety for those in attendance at Corn Palace events. With as many as 3,500 people packed into the venue for any event, Logan said emergency exits need to be considered in the project design.

"Anything we design in here, we shouldn't forget that Sixth Street is still primarily a life safety issue," Logan said.

Logan was also concerned about the potential installation of sculptures or trees that could be installed in the space. From Logan's perspective, Sixth Avenue is often used to view the Corn Palace murals installed on the south side of the building, and he said new architecture could obstruct the view of the city's major tourist attraction.

Another comment came from local attorney James Taylor. Taylor wondered if Confluence considered consulting with an acoustical engineer regarding the space he called an "echoey and extremely loud concrete canyon."

"I'm concerned that you may put in a beautiful green space and the noise is going to be so bad nobody will want to be there," Taylor said.

A final set of suggestions came from Dennis Kaus, who recommended the installation of a covered gazebo and speaker system at the plaza space.

The round of suggestions and concerns followed a series of photographs displayed by Confluence offering possible features that could be included in the project. The crowd was then polled so the landscape design company could get a better feel for what Mitchell residents want to see on Sixth Avenue.

Of the 44 images shown to the crowd, the audience was most receptive to an image depicting a winter holiday scene with a lit Christmas tree. The crowd also appreciated a photo of one of Confluence's past projects in Kansas City where the company installed a performance stage and an grassy seating area.

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Mitchell residents in attendance were less receptive to Confluence's work at the Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum in Sioux Falls where the company installed displays featuring historical imagery.

With the initial public input completed, Pudwill said the company will return to Mitchell on June 7 with a more refined project plan.

The Sixth Avenue project will be one of three potential plans to improve Main Street. The city is also pursuing a veterans park on the corner of First Avenue and Main Street that would replace the gravel lot with grass, and Logan said Mitchell Main Street & Beyond intends to reveal a full streetscape renovation plan in early June.

For now, the spotlight remains on Sixth Avenue, and Pudwill said there are a lot of possibilities for the area.

"Lots of excitement, lots of potential for this space," he said.

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