Archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Downtown beautification project unveiled

January 21, 2004

There are several issues that still need to be addressed, but an initial plan for downtown beautification -- complete with trees, period street lights and sidewalks with inlaid brick -- is underway.

"This is something that has been building for quite some time," Council Member Todd Cohen said.

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Cohen, who is the economic development committee chairman, presented the plans for downtown redevelopment at Tuesday's Baldwin City Council meeting.

He said the idea behind revamping the downtown area is to make it more appealing in an attempt to attract visitors and businesses to Baldwin.

"I think perception is very powerful. I think aesthetics are very important," he said. "I think a little sprucing up can reap big rewards."

Initial designs for the downtown beautification project, which would be completed in about five years, begin with the first phase focusing on the south side of High Street between Seventh and Eighth streets.

Utility Director Terry McKinney said initial designs incorporate four decorative street lights and three trees that would line the south side of High Street. A path of bricks would be laid into the sidewalk.

McKinney said the 1930s era street lights, which will be at least twice as bright as the current lights, are shaped to cast light into the street and onto the sidewalk, but not into the businesses.

The lights will also have a four-plex outlet near the bottom of each pole, which he said would be useful during the Maple Leaf Festival.

Planters will circle the base of the lights, and will contain an automatic water and drain system that will run underneath the sidewalk.

The trees will be located in between the street lights, and bricks leftover from the Sixth Street project will be inlaid in the sidewalk along the tree and light path.

He said the first phase of the project could be completed in about 90 days.

The cost for the project is estimated to be around $43,000. McKinney said the figure includes replacing the lamp posts, the sidewalk and the curb and installing the planters, the water and drain system and the underground electrical infrastructure, with a majority of the work being completed by city staff.

Cohen said the economic development committee recommends the city pay 33 percent of the expenses, leaving the remaining two-thirds to be covered by the downtown landowners during a five-year period.

He said the early numbers reveal the largest landowner would pay nearly $170 a month for five years, while the smallest landowner would see approximately $26 a month for a five-year period. He said the figures don't include interest.

In order for the project to begin, Cohen said, a majority of the landowners must agree to it.

Council Member Ted Brecheisen said he wasn't against the project, but thought the idea needed to be discussed with the landowners before anything was decided.

He said he thought Baldwin also needed to know how the project would affect the responsibilities of city staff.

"You can't neglect the rest of the city of Baldwin to take care of the half a block," Brecheisen said. "I just think there's some more groundwork that needs to be done before we jump into this lock, stock and barrel."

About 15 business owners and community members were in attendance at Tuesday's meeting, a majority in favor of the project.

Baldwin resident Sandy Cardens said she thought the beautification project would be important for Baldwin's growth.

"I think it's vital for the town to keep growing and improve rather than let the downtown deteriorate," she said.

Others in attendance expressed fears with certain issues like the project's funding.

Stacy Carrington, owner of Stacy's Dance Studio, said she was concerned at the cost for which the downtown businesses would be responsible. She wanted the city to explore other ways to fund the project, especially since the entire town would benefit from the redevelopment, not just the downtown businesses.

Cohen said the economic development committee recommended the city share in the cost of the project because the entire town would be benefiting from it.

City Administrator Jeff Dingman said he would be talking with the Department of Commerce to find if Baldwin is eligible for any funding programs.

Mayor Ken Hayes said work would continue on the plans, and it was important to remember the project was still in the initial stages.

"This is a concept," he said. "This plan can be added to, detracted from."

But Hayes said he thought it was a good project and hoped to see support for it.

"I think this is a really good first look at something we can do," he said. "I would like to see the council support this."

In other business, the city council:

  • Approved in a 4-0 vote the charter ordinance setting the council quorum at four. Council Member Nancy Brown was absent from Tuesday's meeting.
  • Approved in a 4-0 vote to set the wholesale water rate for Douglas County Rural Water District No. 4, Wellsville and Edgerton at $2.47 per 1,000 gallons. The rate increase covers Baldwin's recent increase from Lawrence for water treatment services.

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