QUINCY -- Over the course of a 90-minute virtual town hall on Wednesday evening, nearly 100 area residents learned and discussed how the city's riverfront could be reimagined and revitalized.
"We were definitely impressed by the folks who participated in the town hall. It is clear that people are really passionate about the riverfront and have given a lot of thought to how the riverfront could be used in the future," Maggie Strong said. She is one of the consultants hired by the city of Quincy, Adams County and Quincy Park District to help facilitate the drafting of a master plan for the portion of the city that stretches from Kentucky Street north toward Bob Bangert Park and from Third Street west toward the river.
The ultimate goal of the riverfront consultants is provide the three government entities with a 10-year plan of feasible improvements for the riverfront, including events, that would make the city a more attractive place for people, especially young people, to live.
The consultants' work is split into three phases, including discovery, conceptual design and preliminary design.
The Discovery Phase, the current phase, includes a series of town halls. The next is scheduled for early September. Officials hope to rely on a mix of state funding, third-party grants and public-private investment to implement the master plan.
Some of those attending Wednesday's town hall, which was moved online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, suggested that the consultants consider including a number of features that would make Quincy's riverfront a unique destination for tourism in the region. Those ideas include building a wharf or boardwalk along the riverfront, which could be modeled after the Navy Pier in Chicago or the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Cruise ships on the river could dock there.
Mike Klingner, of Klingner and Associates and one of the project's consultants, said riverboats are now unable to dock because of the water's shallow depth along the shoreline and that a boardwalk built out at least 80 feet into the river could make that a reality.
Another focal point of the town hall was increasing access for recreational boaters and kayakers and mitigating flooding with the majority of those attending backing efforts to keep at least portions of the riverfront dry during floods.
Cullan Duke, with Klingner and Associates and a project consultant, said there are many ways communities of comparable size to Quincy have kept floodwaters at bay, including the use of temporary flood walls, raising the riverfront elevation and building terraces.
The consultants also fielded questions about building riverfront condos, devising a zip line system to get visitors from the riverfront to Quinsippi Island and back, improving accessibility for pedestrians who may park at Washington Park and want to walk to the river, future use of the Quincy Memorial Bridge, which city leaders say will likely be replaced by a new bridge at York Street within 10 years, and bringing more retailers and restaurateurs to the area.
"Generating more business and activity along the riverfront is critical," said Paul Toenjes, a consultant with SWT Designs, one of the firms hired to help with the master plan.
Toenjes said, "The parks can't be successful if the businesses are not successful and vice-versa. When you get more reasons to go down the hill from the District towards the riverfront, then you are naturally going to go down the hill."
Consultant Bonnie Roy, a partner with SWT Designs, said it also was important to "extend the experience of the riverfront towards the District."
One way consultants are considering helping address the 100-feet elevation change of the city's riverfront is to mirror the streetcar design implemented in Dubuque, Iowa, where mini-streetcars bring people to the riverfront.
Attendees identified the elevation change as one of the barriers that prevents more people from going to the riverfront.
Other barriers include abandoned, derelict buildings, the lack of sidewalks, concerns about train traffic and lack of riverfront parking.
Participants also identified concerns about how those derelict buildings may be replaced and how modern buildings would aesthetically fit so close to the city's historic business district and homes.
David Greusel, an architect with Convergence Design, another company hired as a project consultant, said, "When it comes to redevelopment at the riverfront I think we are going to likely steer away from a fake sort of historic theme park with new buildings being made to look like ones in the 1800s. "What is likely to happen instead is that whatever improvements that are made at the riverfront, whether they are a fountain, carousel or some other new attraction will be built in the contemporary style, which would only further highlight the historic buildings."
The consultants stressed that any ideas discussed will not necessarily go into the final master plan, but a strong showing of grassroots support for a project or a suggestion would likely ensure its inclusion.
Strong said,"We are here to listen and take our cues from the public. This is not our plan, but the community's plan, so we want to hear what they support and what they don't support."
At the September town hall, Roy said the consultants will compile a list of what people would like to see new at the riverfront, what they would like to see stay the same and what they wish could be changed.
Strong said, "Almost nothing is off the table at this point. We want to think big. We want to know what other ideas are out there. We feel like the ones heard tonight are just the tip of the iceberg."