A downtown streetscaping project received the final go ahead with the city council on Wednesday approving just over $4 million for work set to start in March.
The good news is that downtown businesses and visitors won’t feel the pain for awhile as the first two segments involve the installation of new decorative sidewalks near where a new parking garage and a Spring Hill Suites hotel are under construction on Old Main Street. The new sidewalks must be completed before either can open, which should be by the end of March.
Construction isn’t scheduled to hit the primary business sector until sometime in November. The entire project should take about 17 months to complete.
Streetscaping improvements are also planned for sections of Third and Fourth avenues between 10th Street and Old Main Street. Fourth Avenue West is an area the city has long wanted to improve to make the walk from the Hampton Inn & Suites to the rest of downtown more attractive.
Scope of work includes:
- Replacement of brick pavers with decorative concrete hardscape.
- Landscape enhancements throughout the corridor.
- Improved irrigation system.
- Expanded street lighting.
- Decorative tree lighting.
- Unique site furnishing.s
- Improved drainage and utilities.
- Utility bollards, including water and electric hookups.
- Americans with Disabilities Act corrections.
- Parklet installations.
The area of the project that has been pushed by the Village of the Arts — 12th Street West, between Sixth Avenue West and Ninth Avenue West — was not included in the initial approval. The approved portion of the project includes the majority of other improvements like landscaping, but not the decorative sidewalks, for now.
Though the cost to complete the connector was about another $400,000, city officials had their reasons to hold off the funding. Ward 2 Councilman Gene Brown said there are some potential development deals about to take place in that section of the corridor. If those deals go through, Brown noted that the developers would have to pay for the sidewalk improvements instead of the city.
Brown also argued that if all of the improvements were completed before the deals went through, it would be an added cost to the developer to tear up the improvements only to have to replace them. It was a situation, he said, that may sour any potential development opportunities.
“We all agree we have to have the connectivity to the village,” Brown said. “But we also want to make sure we are making it development friendly and can put those costs on the developer to make it match what we want.”
Officials indicated that new development involves a property owner wanting to develop a nearby parking lot, but they did not reveal specifics. Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff said the development proposal was an uncertainty.
“The project isn’t Ninth to the river, it’s really the village to the river as another entertainment destination area,” Roff said. “I’m not OK with putting off that part of the project because some developer may or may not be selling an idea. We need to stay focused on the whole plan.”
Roff didn’t want to delay the start of the project, however, and agreed to the initial scope after receiving assurances that the connector to the Village of the Arts would be built by the spring of 2020.
As the project encroaches on disrupting local businesses later this year, an emphasis will be placed on communicating with those business owners as to what’s coming and when.
“But let’s be honest, when you start tearing up sidewalks in front of businesses, it’s going to affect them,” said Jason Swift of John Swift Construction, the contractor for the project.