Finally, after a year of planning, vetting and future visioning, Mammoth has a plan to change its weird, 1.5-mile Main Street.
The Town Council on Wednesday, Feb. 19, gave its thumbs-up to a plan that, if actually built, would transform Main Street into a plaza-like thoroughfare that would draw visitors to a viable “downtown.”
“The main reason Downtown Mammoth Lakes is overlooked is that it lacks a distinct brand or image—there is no there, there,” the 105-page plan states in its overview.
“Driving along Main Street, it is not apparent when one has entered downtown.
“As one resident explained, ‘driving around Mammoth is like driving through a parking lot.’ Walking in downtown is no different.
“The street is uncomfortable to be near and operates like a highway instead of a Main Street. Pedestrian infrastructure is sparse, and when it does exist, it is discontinuous and poorly maintained.”
While practically everyone knows Main Street’s shortcomings, the town itself did not have an actual plan to revitalize it until now.
“The objective of this plan is to provide a blueprint for redevelopment of the 1.5-mile Main Street corridor,” the document stated.
“It guides public investment in streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure improvements, while also shaping private redevelopment through regulatory changes and incentives.
“The recommendations have been vetted and largely developed by the residents and policy makers of Mammoth Lakes.”
The council’s action, taken after walking through the document in a one-hour workshop previous to its regular meeting, features a number of drastic changes, including the destruction of the frontage roads on the north and south sides of the street, along with expanded and safe walking areas and transit stops.
In approving the document, the council sought to address the disconnect between its resort areas, such as the Village and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, and the town itself.
“As Mammoth Lakes continues to compete in the national mountain resort tourism sector, it has become apparent that a viable downtown is needed in addition to a world-class mountain resort.
“The relationship between downtown and the resort lacks an important synergy.
“Currently, the mountain resort is the destination of Mammoth Lakes and downtown is overlooked. While tourism is the economic engine for the Town, retail and lodging sales fall behind in comparison to other mountain resort downtowns. Some of the reasons for this lag are the Town’s remote location, older building stock and overall lack of a distinct image to draw people back over time.
“Refocusing efforts on Main Street, to create a valuable ‘place,’ will help develop a two-way connection to the mountain and diversify the town’s assets to ensure a year-round destination for tourists.”
Funding for the plan came from a grant from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which would maintain jurisdiction over Main Street (S.R. 203) as it is transformed.