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Consultants give board status report on Veterans Parkway corridor study

By Bill ShortFlag City Logo

A consulting team presented a report last week to the Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen on the status of the Veterans Parkway corridor study.

City Engineer Darek Baskin reminded the board members at their Feb. 4 regular monthly meeting that they hired the team last fall to conduct a study of potential land uses for the newly constructed parkway.

He noted that its corridor extends from state Route 385 at Raleigh-Millington Road, crosses Navy Road, runs north adjacent to the Millington Regional Jetport and intersects with Highway 51, where it ties into West Union Road on the west side of the highway.

Before introducing Vince Thillen of ETI Corp., who is the project manager, Baskin said “stakeholder meetings” and some “public surveys” will be conducted in the near future.

Thillen told the board members that ETI has met a number of times with Baskin and other Millington officials.

He said the “associate consultants” working with the firm are Brenda Solomito of Solomito Land Planning, John David Caldwell of the Fleming Associates architectural firm, Dr. Martin Lipinski, a retired University of Memphis professor who is the team’s “traffic expert,” and the firm of Brophy & Heineke, which has conducted a survey of the corridor to determine all the “environmental features” that must be addressed.

Solomito said the consulting team was tasked with examining the “influences” that would be affecting development around the parkway. She cited the airport, railway and the existing land uses.

“We’re not looking at zoning,” she noted, “because zoning and land use are basically two different things. Your zoning is the tool to use in which a property can develop. Land use will develop a character of the property.”

Solomito said the land uses that the team has developed are residential, mixed-use, commercial, industrial, employment center, institutional and utility and open spaces.

She said a handout that she distributed to the board members describes each of the land uses, what the team recommends developing in that area, how it should be developed and the “character” it needs to maintain a “high-quality” development within the study area.

Solomito said Land-Use Scenario A is one of the options that the team came up with after considering some opinions from the Millington Industrial Development Board. With Highway 51 on the west, she said, there is a boundary that covers most of the existing industrial area on the north, state Route 385 on the south and the Navy base on the east.

“So, in the land use that we’ve developed,” she noted, “we have the employment center, which will promote distribution, office and support services. That’s going to be the job-creator area for the city of Millington.”

Transitioning into that, she said, would be mixed use off of state Route 385, which would also be a mixture of office and commercial. Preserving some of the existing residential areas, it would transition into the Highway 51 commercial corridor, while also preserving the “institutional” aspects of the schools and churches.

Because this has the largest amount of employment center land use, Solomito called it “probably the most aggressive” of the scenarios.

She said Land-Use Scenario B was developed after the team talked with “a couple of property owners and stakeholders.” It involves a “slight reduction” in the amount of employment center area.

“However, it increases your mixed use and some of your commercial,” she noted. “This land-use scenario is a sales tax generator.”

Solomito said Land-Use Scenario C is “a little bit of a mixture” of A and B. Although it has a lot more commercial along Highway 51, it transitions out into mixed use that will also include hotels, retail and some “higher-density” residential.

“And then, you have your employment center,” she said. “So, this one will have a better balance of your sales tax revenue and job creation.”

Solomito said the team will probably prepare “a couple more” land-use scenarios through workshops with the Millington Municipal Planning Commission and then with the board. She noted that Lipinski is examining traffic projections for each decade through 2040, based on current growth trends for Millington continuing on the same scale.

When the team chooses a land-use scenario that produces a certain amount of square footage for the employment center and the commercial, Solomito said Lipinski will adjust his projections and then create a new traffic scenario.

“I think we all know the airport is very high-tech,” she noted. “With the rail being there, it has huge potential to be an economic generator for the city of Millington.”

Caldwell told the board members that Fleming Associates was tasked with determining the “character” and “identity” that Millington wants the Veterans Parkway corridor to have. He said the four words that the firm came up with were “high-tech, clean, timeless and aviation.”

“The first things that you would see coming into the city would be the signage,” he acknowledged. “That’s what helps set the tone for everything.”

Projecting some photographs onto a screen, Caldwell said he wanted to provide a few examples ranging from large-scale to very simple.

“There is a variety of images, some modern, some more traditional,” he noted. “But not so traditional that we’ve seen it before. These are just an open palette right now.”

Caldwell also projected images from other cities that illustrate the mixed-use, commercial and employment center land uses. They ranged from low-scale neighborhood support systems that are pedestrian-friendly to more materials and small commercial that “bring up the scale” of the city.

While acknowledging that she has one more property owner to speak with, Solomito said the team’s next step is to work with staff to set the dates for two workshops around the board members’ schedules.

“We’ll get all that information, and then we will do a final land-use plan,” she noted. “During the course of those workshops, we’ll also revise what we’re calling our design guidelines, which will be the way this area will develop along Veterans Parkway.”

But in all the scenarios, Solomito said, it is important to know that state Route 385 and Highway 51 are “gateways” to the city of Millington, and Veterans Parkway is the “main attraction” between those two.

“When companies come in from out of town,” she said, “we know they have appreciated the fact that we’re planning design guidelines for this area: signage, lighting, landscaping. And all that will be part of this plan.”

Solomito emphasized that the adopted plan will not replace Millington’s Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations, but will be “another layer on top” to take care of them. That way, she said, the city will be recognized as a “regional” area, with the airport, railroad, Highway 51 and state Route 385.

“So,” she concluded, “we’re looking at the gateways, the signage, trying to tie all that in with the land uses and knowing what types of businesses you’d want to attract.”

 

 

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