Downtown Grand Island may have a very different look in the future. Consultants revealed their recommendations for the downtown's revitalization Tuesday.
The Omaha-based firm that put together the Grand Island Redevelopment Study said Grand Island's downtown is large for a city with its population, which means there's a lot of potential.
First off, the study said it's essential for more people to live downtown.
"As soon as you get more people living downtown, then it becomes a more active place," said Marco Floreani, Grand Island's Community Development Administrator.
For that, the consultants pointed to renovating old buildings as multi-family residential complexes. They also recommended an increase in retail stores and restaurants.
"Think about where all the redevelopment and the drive is. Where we go when we go to Omaha, it's the Old Market, when we go to Lincoln, it's the Haymarket," said Grand Island Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Johnson.
"What we're really excited about is a number of young entrepreneurs, emerging businesses, that are choosing downtown as their home. I think the emergence of these interesting businesses is going to be kind of the next generation of downtown Grand Island," said Jay Palu with Alley Poyner Macchietto Architectural Design Firm, which conducted the study.
Among the specific recommendations is a destination hotel to attract more activity to the area and to make downtown a regional tourism hub.
"This brings an infusion of new money, visitor money, into our downtown, which is always a good thing, and it adds another element to the nightlife, or the evening life," said Johnson.
The firm also suggested making a park the focal point of downtown, a place for events and concerts. But in the end, leaders said, it's up to Grand Island residents to define their downtown.
"There's not a goal on how we want to see Grand Island. There's different ideas on how we can make it a more active and economically vital place in the community, but really that's for the developers and the citizens and the people in Grand Island. They will define what downtown is," Floreani said.
The next step is for the city to apply for a $350,000 grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development so these recommendations can be implemented.