Along with commercial uses, Vogel sees strong potential for housing on that end of the parkway. Apartments there would be attractive to people interested in living close to downtown because they’d also be near schools, the YMCA, city parks and trails, and shopping.
“It’s a good location,” he said.
Making that sentiment a reality was the point of the parkway project, which at the time was the city’s largest urban renewal effort since the 1970s. The $4.1 million in public infrastructure costs were financed with state grants, city funding and assessments against adjoining properties.
One part of the original plan hasn’t been accomplished and probably won’t be anytime soon — reconstruction of the Union Pacific railroad trestle that crosses the parkway near Highway 169 to make for a roomier and more attractive underpass. UP officials, who would have to approve any changes, have shown no interest in doing that.
So whatever other improvements occur along the parkway in coming years, drivers and pedestrians using the road and trail will continue to face a very narrow squeeze through the timber piers beneath the railroad tracks, Hentges predicted.
“I like to say it’s romantic,” he said of the trestle. “But that may be trying to put a lot of lipstick on a pig.”