VOL. 116 | NO. 115 | Friday, June 14, 2002
By RICK RUSSELL
Public gets first view of streetscape plan
By RICK RUSSELL
The Daily News
Members of the Center City Commission and development teams unveiled Thursday the first phase of the Downtown streetscape project.
The streetscape project is part of a three phase $50 million effort to transform and enhance 80 square blocks of the Downtown area.
The first phase is slated to begin as early as next year and will renovate areas of the South Main Historical District.
"This is an area that has been neglected for 30 to 40 years," said Jeff Sanford, Center City Commission president. "There is a growing number of people coming down here to live, work or play. We want to accommodate them."
The project, which is expected to cost $5 million in public funding, is expected to be completed in six to eight months, and is being scheduled to work around major city events.
The scope of the phase is expected to cover a large section of South Main Street, extending from Beale Street to St. Paul Avenue, and will focus on the renovation of the sidewalk zones and storefronts along the street.
"The initial goal is to improve the sidewalks and curbing along South Main with as little disruption as possible," said Laura Morgan, CCC director of development.
Officials said while much of the patchwork sidewalk will need to be replaced with new pavement, the overall goal of the project is to preserve as much of the original historic district as possible, Morgan said.
The "nuts and bolts" of the phase include adding lights, historic placards, benches and lining sections of the street with trees and other foliage.
Moreover, the development team emphasized the "flexibility" of the project to include ideas and suggestions from the South Main community.
"The master plan of the project is to connect the sections of Downtown, but maintain the synergy and identity of each one," Morgan said.
Ritchie Smith, who detailed the conceptual design for the district, said the project was designed with the identity of the community in mind.
"We want to infuse public art into the new landscape," said Smith, owner of Ritchie Smith & Associates.
Plans include incorporating mosaic inlays into the new sidewalks, adding decorative fencework at select locations, as well as laying markers detailing historically significant locations.
While the refurbished sidewalk will add a net gain in parking spaces along the street, plans include erecting new parking meters, as well. The plan to erect additional parking meters along the street drew mixed reactions from the crowd.
With few meters in the area, those familiar with Downtown know free parking is available. On the other hand, business owners lament having the same cars parking in front of their shop all day.
The meeting also gave South Main business owners and residents the first glance of the planned revitalization of their neighborhood, and allowed them to exchange ideas with city officials.