DEADWOOD — During three previous visits, consultant Roger Brooks introduced Deadwood to the idea of a public gathering space in Outlaw Square and is thoroughly impressed with its execution and management thus far.
Thursday, at a public forum sharing his findings from a Roger Brooks International consultation conducted Wednesday, he introduced possible solutions to a familiar challenge city officials are and what Brooks labeled Deadwood’s number one priority: parking.
“Your number one priority for probably the last 20 years has not changed,” Brooks said. “Here’s exactly what I would recommend you do. I would put an 800-space parking garage right there, where the Department of Transportation facilities are, and I heard they’re going to move them. You could probably put four stories of parking garage in there and it would still only be at the highway level because it’s way down in there … You keep doing half-measures. Stop it with the half-measures and conquer the problem.”
The facilities are near the Days of ’76 campground.
Brooks said downtowns are about people, not cars and went on to say the city’s Main Street traffic problem is more due to parking than number of visitors and cited $21,500 per parking space as the current cost to build such a structure.
“You have, like, 1,200 people that work downtown, and I don’t think you have 1,200 parking spaces,” he said. “So where do you put all your workers … you can’t even accommodate your employees, let alone visitors and residents.”
Brooks recommended the parking garage be engineered to accommodate 1,500 parking spaces and speculated that it keeps lingering as a problem, due to the fact that it is likely a $15 million project.
Mayor David Ruth, Jr. said city officials know parking is a challenge in Deadwood and will continue to be a challenge.
“So we have to identify ways that we can expand our parking through structures in strategic places,” Ruth said. “He’s identified one location. We can show him two or three others that I think he would agree would also work. We just need to continue to build on that and we know that. That’s why we’re working on that.”
Ruth said historic engineer estimates have been dusted off by staff, in order to avoid reinventing the wheel and a couple of locations have been identified.
“So we’re working toward that. We are looking at prices and figuring out how to do it,” Ruth said. “I don’t know that we’ll have a specific time that we say, ‘We’re going to bond for this structure and it’s going to cost this much,’ but we are working toward getting that number so we know what it’s going to be.”
Ruth cited the Miller Street parking lot as a possible option.
“It certainly would be cheaper per spot than to, say, expanding on Broadway or acquiring DOT, because that’s going to take awhile. I’m not sure when that’s going to happen, although I do believe that some of it is in the process. The ball has been rolling on that. We also have plans at the end of Main Street that LIV Hospitality has had developed over the years for a three-story parking structure that they talked about. So there are all kinds of options out there. It’s just identifying and utilizing the option that would make the most sense.”
Brooks’ previous visits to Deadwood were conducted in 2014 and 2016. Since then, many of his recommendations, many originally made seven years ago, have been implemented in Deadwood.
“Connection to the trail and scenery is excellent,” he said. “Outlaw Square is absolutely fantastic in every way. This is very well designed and executed and very well-run. I love the fact that it is monetized on every size of the square. It is ringed with commerce. The wayfinding system is also top-notch and creates a much-improved experience.”
Brooks also called the small alternative gathering space, or plaza, on Gold Street fantastic and recommended it be used even more.
“Even the shootouts have improved. You have added some new displays in the depot. Great job,” Brooks said. “The interpretive signs are also world-class. Great job of telling the stories. Even the fencing keeps Deadwood authentic. Awesome job with the utility box wraps. No wonder Deadwood is such an award-winning destination.”
Brooks then went on to say that doesn’t mean Deadwood is done with all the improvement.
“There’s no city that’s done,” he said.
Other recommendations from Brooks for future improvements in Deadwood include small things like adding a hashtag to the Deadwood gateway signs and 24/7, 365 visitor information availability.
Brooks also suggested: improved crosswalks near Tin Lizzie across the street to the Welcome Center, and near Deadwood Mountain Grand across the four-lane; another 40 benches downtown, flanked with pots to enhance Main Street appearance; limiting delivery vehicles to no later than 10:30 a.m. during the peak months, as a matter of public safety; adding informational signage to construction projects around town; no chains or franchises on Main Street.
“It’s all about the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker these days,” Brooks said. “That’s what appeals to visitors. This is also what a real downtown would have been like, back in the day.”
Brooks takes particular issue with the Century Link building and called for improved façade appeal.
“Develop trompe l’oeil murals for this eyesore,” he said.
A recommendation to simplify the trolley system from 32 stops to four to six and running them seven days a week from May to October was made, as well as developing pedestrian wayfinding around town and in businesses, urging business owners to stay open later.
“Seventy percent of all retail spending takes place after 6 p.m.,” Brooks said. “Stay open later.”
Another of Brooks’ go-to recommendations is the importance of curb appeal. He urged business owners to soften the transition between façade and sidewalk.
“Always add benches flanked with pots,” he said. “That’s not the city, that’s businesses.”
He also urged retailers to fit the theme of historic Deadwood by creating retail signage and display guidelines.
“Hanging t-shirts everywhere makes the town seem cheesy and low-end,” he said. “I just don’t want you to do that.”
Deadwood City Commissioner Sharon Martinisko asked how he would suggest accomplishing that.
Brooks suggested, perhaps, zoning overlays that that limits the number of like businesses in a given district. For example, souvenir shops.
While Brooks applauded Deadwood for moving to modern parking with the pay by plate kiosks, he recommended easier-to-read signs to expedite the payment process.
He also recommended limiting the number of private events at Outlaw Square, as its intent is for a public gathering space.
“I think almost every event should be open to the public,” he said.
In closing, he wished the city well.
“Here’s to the very bright future of the absolutely incredible Deadwood,” he said. “What you have here is amazing. I think your number one priority is getting people to park out there and creating an easy, quick trolley into downtown. If you did that, you’d decrease your traffic, probably, by two-thirds.”
Ruth said he is appreciative of Brooks coming back and taking the time to revisit Deadwood.
“It’s fun to look back on where we started, where we’re at, see some of those positive things that we’ve done, understanding that we need to adapt to change and maybe add to what we’ve done,” Ruth said. “I would have liked to have spent more time to dig a little bit deeper into some of the other things we’ve done, because he did identify a couple of things we are doing, but he just didn’t have the opportunity to realize it.”
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