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HBA presents development options for "Pride Plaza"

SAN DIEGO, California -- At the February community meeting of the Hillcrest Town Council (HTC), Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) Executive Director Ben Nicholls and Walter Chambers of the Hillcrest Community Development Corporation (HCDC) made a presentation about plans to redevelop the Normal Street corridor, also known as “Pride Plaza.”

Nicholls said the plan, which has been unanimously approved by the HBA’s executive committee, involves creating a civic space within Hillcrest, and Normal Street, with its extra wide configuration, is the perfect solution.

Not only is Normal Street used for the Hillcrest Farmers Market, the Pride Block Party, as a staging area for LGBT Pride Parade and Nightmare on Normal Street, Nicholls acknowledged that crowds attending various events throughout the year at the informal gathering space around Pride Plaza generally “spill out into the street and police have to close it.”

He said development plans would extend the public space out into the area of University Avenue to help accommodate the needs of the plaza. Three options were presented at the meeting, each incorporating ideas from SANDAG bicycle lane requirements, input from the HCDC, and taking into account the needs of the Uptown Community Parking District and local businesses, something of great importance to the HBA.

“To pay for a project like this, a variety of funding sources will need to be tapped,” Nicholls said. “Some decisions will require creative funding solutions. We may not get all that we want, but we may have to make sacrifices and trade-offs.”

The plan would be addressed in phases, Nicholls said, with phase one encompassing the short block between University Avenue and Harvey Milk Street, the area closest to the business district.

“HBA and Parking District money can pool funds for this phase one — there is a lot of money available if we format [the plans] in the right way,” he said.

Phase two would be the long block between Harvey Milk Street and Lincoln Avenue. Phase three would be the final block between Lincoln Avenue and Washington Street.

Options presented included a variety of configurations, incorporating bike lanes, using café-style tables, light canopies, movable bollards to create a “flex-space” that could be used for parking by day and a gathering space by night, movable planters to create green space, and the use of textured pavement to denote multiple use areas.

Nicholls pointed to the fact that the wide median currently in place forces those in wheelchairs to “go all the way around.” Textured pavement would provide delimiters for the multi-use areas and still allow for wheelchair accessibility.

“None of these ideas are fixed,” Chambers said. “These are concepts and nothing is written in stone.”

Chambers added that the HCDC is encouraging community input through their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Nicholls said the HBA will be constructing a static display of the plans for the inside of their information booth at the Hillcrest Farmers Market — viewable throughout March and April — where community members can offer ideas and suggestions. He said they hope to take the community’s input and develop a phase one plan to move forward with.

Then they will create a “paint and planter pilot,” a temporary, replicate version of the plan and install it on the street for six months, inviting traffic reviews, community and city involvement, etc. For more information, visit hillcrestbia.org or find the CDC on Facebook under “Foundation for the Public Realm” or @HillcrestCDC on Twitter.

(Editor's note: This post was originally published on SDGLN media partner Gay San Diego.)