After years of trying to plan a downtown area, town leaders could decide in the coming months what a future downtown Morrisville might look like.
Mayor Mark Stohlman said he wants the town council to vote on the issue by the end of the year. He expects the council to set a strict deadline for choosing the town’s downtown vision at a Sept. 24 meeting.
“We have to give staff direction on what to do,” Stohlman said. “We can’t sit on this forever.”
For years, Morrisville leaders have envisioned a downtown hub on Jeremiah Street, near Town Hall.
But the town doesn’t own all the property in the area, and consultants have said a site on Morrisville Carpenter Road would be a better downtown option.
Both sites could house a publicly funded library and recreation center, along with private investment.
Consultants hired by the town have said the Jeremiah Street area would likely attract more residential growth instead of retail and dining.
The Morrisville Carpenter Road area, where the town doesn’t currently own any land, could spur more shopping and restaurant options, they said.
Councilman TJ Cawley said during a council meeting Tuesday that he doesn’t want to vote without hearing more expert opinions.
The town could spend about $40,000 for a market analysis and traffic study of the two sites.
But Stohlman rejected the idea of hiring another outside consultant. He said it would be a waste of time and money to hear ideas that other experts have already reported.
A survey conducted by the town earlier this year showed a main street area is not at the top of many residents’ wish-lists.
The survey asked residents to rate the idea of a park and amphitheater and also a plaza and recreation center as part of the Jeremiah Street plan.
The plaza and recreation center received an average grade of C. The park and amphitheater had more support, with an average grade of B.
Of the 24 projects listed in the survey, 16 scored higher than the plaza, and nine scored higher than the park. Most of the top projects were greenways and road construction.
One popular project was a new home for the Western Wake Farmers’ Market. Officials typically include the farmers market in downtown plans, whether at the Jeremiah Street or Morrisville Carpenter Road site.
Jim Pellegrini, president of the farmers market, wrote in an email to council members that he supports the Morrisville Carpenter Road site and is concerned about Jeremiah Street.
Because it’s not in a well-traveled area, Pellegrini wrote, “we believe that the viability of our market would be threatened by relocation to that site, if we are the only attraction bringing people there. Accordingly, our board cannot endorse a relocation to that site in the absence of other development.”
‘A town without a heart’
Tony Chiotakis, Morrisville’s director of community services, said residents want a downtown more vibrant than what some experts and town officials believe the Jeremiah Street site could bring.
“It’s something more than just where they can go throw a Frisbee or read a book,” Chiotakis said.
But some council members said the Jeremiah Street location might draw more private interest if the public pieces are done well enough to draw large crowds.
“I really think there must be some way to have it all,” Mayor Pro Tem Liz Johnson said.
Cawley, though, said the best way to have it all is to pursue a vision that includes it all.
“There’s not a place to hang out in Morrisville, where there’s a gathering place, right now,” Cawley said after the meeting. “People talk about how we’re the heart of the Triangle. But we’re a town without a heart.”