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Concerns about downtown Waukesha's lingering image as an area riddled with one-way streets punctuated a recent discussion about the reconstruction of one of the city's main thoroughfares.

After receiving a hefty dose of feedback from residents and business owners, city officials held a public information meeting about the proposed conversion of Gaspar Street from its current two-lane state into a one-way section of the downtown area.

'It has to be a two-way street,' Alderman Joe Pieper said, matter-of-factly, as he gave his view at the meeting. 'I'm urging everyone to consider this option.'

Pieper was one of about three dozen people who attended the meeting Tuesday, Feb. 23. A smattering of elected officials, downtown residents and shopkeepers listened to a presentation, and a small handful offered input.

An emerging plan

Plans to revamp Gaspar Street tie into a more extensive reconstruction project that began last week along portions of West Main Street. The work along Gaspar is slated for completion by 2020.

Because Gaspar Street falls later in the overall project timeline, city officials say they continue to explore options. It is not yet certain when a final decision will be rendered.

City Planner Maria Pandazi and Project Engineer Alex Damien have expanded the scope of the proposed options within Gaspar Street. While the one-way, northbound option is not yet off the table, two others have been added into the mix.

'I ask you to keep an open mind,' Pandazi said at the meeting. 'A lot of work went into planning this.'

While the eventual makeup of Gaspar Street remains up in the air for the time being, there is one certainty: It cannot continue in its existing state.

'The road has to change,' Damien said. 'There are new ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements that have to be met.'

Other options

The first additional option entails a continuation of the two-way lane format, though it would be narrower in size for bike and pedestrian lanes and ADA accommodations.

The second new proposal under consideration calls for the outright closure of Gaspar Street and instead creating a public plaza area. If this option were pursued, Pandazi said, efforts would be made to create a signature destination spot within the downtown area.

'We don't just want a square with trees in it,' Pandazi said. 'We would want this to be a meaningful public space where special events could take place.'

Efforts could be taken to harness nearby frontage access to the Fox River, Pandazi said, and public art could also be an important component if the plaza option were ultimately pursued.

But the majority of the speakers continued to circle back to the one-way street perception.

Although city officials altered the makeup of many downtown streets years ago to a two-way format, residents and shopkeepers said they still receive feedback from people who believe this characteristic is prevalent in most city streets.

The cost of maintaining the public plaza was another concern that permeated the recent discussion.

City Administrator Kevin Lahner encouraged residents and business owners to continue providing feedback throughout the planning process.

'The feedback will ultimately be used to determine a design,' Lahner said.

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