Streetscape Project should be finished by July 4
Published 2:46 pm Monday, May 15, 2023
BY LANCE GAITHER
As the Streetscape project enters into its final stages, city engineer Josh Morgan discussed the timeline for completion of the project.
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“We are a little behind, we have proprieties we want done by the end of May,” Morgan said. “We want the block of Main from Second to Fourth done and the corners on Third. We want those intersections done. We have some underground stuff that slowed us down. We have found some gas lines and water lines and things like that have pushed us a week or two back. I think July Fourth is when we will be fully done. They are here every day and pushing forward as fast as they can. They are making progress and moving things ahead which is all you can ask for at this point.”
Morgan believes construction will have a minimal impact on the Great American Brass Band Festival.
“We are trying to find a good stopping point for the Brass Band Festival.” Morgan said. “We hope that the block from Second to Third looks like the block from Third to Fourth, which has pavers in, trees in. The hope is the south side of Third looks like that and the other two corners of Fourth.”
Morgan also says the city’s efforts to help with parking downtown have been helpful.
“The biggest thing we done is open up parking on the surface lots to the public, we have had good responses to that,” Morgan said. “With having the two hours free at the parking garage, we have seen a slight increase, but not a whole lot. That surprised me a bit. I expected it to see a lot more usage with the two hours free and us promoting it a lot more. A lot of people didn’t realize they could park there at the garage. I think people like parking on the street or in surface lots. I have just ordered nine more signs for the Third Street lot to add more public spaces there. We are going to keep working on it to make sure people have places to park. We want to make sure the people using Main Street parking are going to businesses and not just staying there all day. Keeping as much parking open as we can during construction has been a daily battle for me.”
Morgan is sympathetic to downtown businesses affected by the construction.
“Downtown has felt busy, crowded and not very welcoming,” Morgan said. “We are trying to work on that. Our community liaison Melanie Crossfield has worked a lot with downtown businesses to ensure their needs are met as best as possible. I look into the future at how nice downtown will be with people coming here to shop at bushinesses and going to restaurants. I have learned a lot during the construction process. I don’t know how much we could have done differently, maybe more communication about how this has gone. We thought it would go quicker, but I don’t think there is anything we could have done to make it go faster than it has. We have tried to keep as many driving lanes and sidewalks open as we can to minimize impacts and it has made construction go a little bit longer. I think that is just the nature of a project like this, we are getting to the point where people are just wanting to see it be done. When the first pavers went in and people could see what the finished product we be like it has improved the mood. People are more excited to come downtown. Even from a construction perspective, our meetings are shorter because a lot of the questions are answered. We are pushing to the finish.”
Morgan was pleased to see such a large crowd at last week’s Downtown Downbeat.
“We have been really successful with the events we have had during construction,” Morgan said. “We have had good turnouts, people have been safe, they have been aware of the construction and careful. The project has hindered us on our big events. I like to see people coming to these things and seeing the progress we made. I hope it makes them excited to come back in the summer. I really wish we would be fully done for Brass Band, but I’m excited for the end of the summer when we have more stuff and people can see the finished product where we can show it off be excited about it.”
Once the project is finished, Morgan hopes to shift to making improvements through smaller projects.
“We will start expanding out, on side streets we wont have the wide areas with pavers just something more basic,” Morgan said. “We will continue the philosophy of making sure things are safe and walkable. We want our sidewalks to be clean and new to be a pleasant experience. In the future it will be smaller scale projects that we can do in house. We want to focus on constant improvement. We don’t want to do like in the past where you do a big project, let it set for 30 years, then do another big project. We are going to budget money every year for small projects to make constant improvements. Never let things look run down and keep things nice. I think that is a healthier way to maintain a city. I always joke we need to be like Disney World, there is always construction going on, because they never let things set, they always make things better. That should be our mentality, as we walk around we need to see what we can do to make things better. It doesn’t have to be a huge $7 million project. It could be small $10,000 projects here or there to keep things nice.”
Morgan is grateful for patience from the community.
“I drive through the same downtown so I know that is has been slower to get through downtown,” Morgan said.
“We are getting close, and we won’t have to go through this again for a while, that is the goal. This is a once in a generation type of project and now that we have it done we won’t have to do this again. We knocked out probably one of the hardest projects we have had to do in this community.”