Excitement Builds over Streetscape Work

September 25, 2010

BY KATHLEEN MOORE Gazette Reporter

Fresh cement is making Sondra Stephens happy.
Workers have been installing new sidewalks near her jewelry store, part of a three-year streetscape project for the Upper Union Street business district. She can’t wait for them to get to her store, even though it will briefl y surround her upscale entrance with dust and noise.
“We’re very excited. It’s very near me — they’ll probably be in front of my store in the next couple days,” Stephens said. “I’ve been watching it come. It’s going to be wonderful.”
It’s something business owners once thought they’d never see.
As the downtown and other areas got fresh roads and sidewalks, Upper Union owners began to grumble that they were forgotten because they were doing so well. The stores were fl ourishing. Owners were organizing well-attended festivals, street fairs and a farmers market. They didn’t need economic assistance or tax breaks to bring in new businesses.
But they did need new sidewalks. They started lobbying for help more than a decade ago. Finally, they turned to Metroplex Development Authority for help. Metroplex agreed to pay for half of the streetscape project. The business district persuaded the city to pay the other half. The project was also broken into three parts. This year’s portion will total just more than $700,000. City officials welcomed the partnership with Metroplex, which Mayor Brian U. Stratton has said is needed throughout the city.
“It was a really good example of cooperation,” Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen said.
Even the contractors seem to understand they’re working in a very active commercial zone.
“There’s been very little disruption to the businesses,” Stephens said. “They’re helping customers in and out of the stores. The gentlemen have been speedy and they have been courteous. They even clean up when they leave!”
Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said his agency decided to fund the project partly because of its location.
“It’s a gateway to the community,” he said. “And it’s a thriving, successful commercial corridor.”
Of course, the project went beyond simple cement. Planters and benches have been added, as well as new lighting and other amenities.
“We’ve waited a long time for this,” Stephens said. “It’s going to make our area look gorgeous.”

MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Construction workers from Callanan Industries work on sidewalks along the Upper Union Street business district on Sept. 15 as part of streetscape improvements.

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