Recap - September 2020 Lunch Program
On Thursday, September 10th, WTS Sacramento virtually welcomed Emily Baime Michaels, Executive Director of the Midtown Association, who discussed placemaking, public spaces, and community vitality in Midtown Sacramento. Director Michaels also spoke about how transportation is factored into conversations and decisions surrounding Midtown Sacramento.
The Midtown Association was established in 1985 and just celebrated its 35th anniversary. Since its inception, the organization has endeavored to increase economic performance and influence of the district and ensure clean, safe, and welcoming spaces in Midtown. There are four overlapping funding models for the Midtown Association, including the Property Business Improvement District (PBID), two smaller restaurant districts, and Midtown Parks (a 501(c)3 nonprofit). The current annual budget for the Midtown Association is just under three million dollars a year.
The Midtown Association uses a comprehensive dashboard to track and measure their performance in achieving their goals. Director Michaels shared the district’s dashboard metrics from January 2017 to June 2020, which included information on residential and non-residential developments, homeless housing progress, bicycle and pedestrian activity, investment activity, media coverage, and more. Through using the dashboard, capital improvements are closely monitored since they are key to the organization’s placemaking efforts. Since 2017, 2.7 million dollars of investment from public funds and the Association’s leveraged funds have been allocated to capital improvements and infrastructure investment. Investment examples related to transportation include: installing bike share stations, being involved in implementing the protected bike lane that runs along J Street, implementing traffic calming and pedestrian education measures in the Sutter Medical Center area, and installing bollards at key areas in Midtown that are frequently closed for pedestrian activity.
In addition to tracking capital investments and economic impacts, the Midtown Association also monitors bicycle and pedestrian activity in the district. Manual traffic counts and heat sensors are used at key intersections in Midtown to track the number of bicyclists and pedestrians. While activity has decreased between 2019 and 2020 in some areas due to COVID-19, there is currently significant activity on Thursday and Friday nights, and Saturday mornings. The Midtown Association aims to provide amenities, lighting for example, to create a welcoming and safe multimodal environment which promotes bicycling and walking. Additionally, the organization administers bike education programs and bike bait programs. Bicycling and walking enhancements represent one aspect of the placemaking program organized by the Midtown Association.
The placemaking program consists of a wide range of projects including the Alhambra Placemaking Master Plan project, the Stockton Boulevard Streetscape project, and several lighting projects throughout the district. The Alhambra Placemaking Master Plan project was completed recently and involved improved furnishings, landscape renovations, art based placemaking, and community gathering spaces along Alhambra Boulevard. The Stockton Boulevard Streetscape project is in the planning phase and entails installing designated bike lanes, landscaping, and adding pedestrian enhancements like striped crosswalks. Director Michaels noted that there are other exciting placemaking projects in the works as well.
The Midtown Association is also responsible for organizing Farm to Fork Al Fresco and Midtown Parks. Farm to Fork Al Fresco is a program that encourages residents and visitors to celebrate and enjoy the hospitality sector in the COVID environment by replacing parking spaces with outdoor dining space. Midtown Parks is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that has a purpose of investing in the community through parks, while prioritizing equity and access. These two efforts, along with the other incredible projects that Midtown Association organizes, help keep Midtown a safe, beautiful, and vibrant community.