Venuti: Time to revitalize Homer

When I drive away from my home the first intersection that I encounter is Pioneer Avenue. As many of us know, trying to make a left turn, or even a right turn there can at times be challenging, especially in the early morning and after school or work rush hours: However, it is not uncommon during mid-day in the summer when looking east or west, there will not be a moving vehicle in sight. By contrast, if I then go down to the post office, the Sterling Highway will at the very same time be simply bustling with traffic, most of it headed to the spit. The name Homer Bypass really does describe this route through Homer. It is easy to see how a newcomer driving into Homer on the Sterling Highway would naturally assume that the road is headed into Homer and completely miss the turn onto Pioneer Avenue. In some ways, the Bypass has become too effective. It primarily directs traffic to those businesses located further east of downtown or out on the spit.

There are many towns with bypasses; however, they usually have a large sign pointing to their city center. Homer does have a very nicely painted and artistically designed sign at the intersection of Pioneer and the Bypass but it is on the wrong side of the road and can be difficult to read especially when you are driving east in summer traffic on the Bypass at 35 mph. The sign directing drivers to Homer’s downtown needs to be more directional, than artistic. It should be larger and placed in a location facing incoming traffic.

Additionally, the options for downtown visitor parking are critically lacking.

With an eye to the future the City, or potentially a private landowner, could develop a property and provide fee-parking for motor homes and the cars of those people who would enjoy getting out of their vehicles and walking around Pioneer Avenue.

There are many unique stores, restaurants and galleries that visitors would then get to enjoy. By walking around they would get a sense of the character of Homer and meet the owners of these businesses. Most businesses are staffed by knowledgeable people who would be happy to give directions or answer questions. With this increase of pedestrian traffic the City of Homer would see the need for more cross walks and providing additional benches for just plain sitting. In this way becoming a walkable city would occur organically.

It can be so easy to become complacent with Homer’s status-quo, but I’m all for thinking outside of the box. A notable vibrancy occurs on Pioneer Avenue every time a cruise ship is in port and you see the tourists walking around Homer’s downtown, going into the museum, restaurants, galleries and businesses. It could be like that all season, even at mid-day with the right signage and adequate parking. Just imagine Pioneer and Old Towne Homer being a walkable destination for their great shopping and dining opportunities. One day this summer I met a couple who told me they assumed Homer was just the spit, the post office, Safeway, Save U More and the banks.

We all know that Homer is so much more than that.

I think it is time to revitalize downtown Homer.