Archive for Thursday, September 23, 2004

A closer look

Council views plans for downtown project

September 23, 2004

Baldwin City Council members got their first look this week at the finalized plans for downtown revitalization. Now it's going to be up to them to decide whether to give the plans their stamp of approval in order to apply for a grant to help finance 80 percent of the project.

Gary Huneycutt, from the Kansas engineering firm EBH and Associates, shared a series of diagrams of the plans with the city council Monday that he, along with the Baldwin economic development committee, designed to revitalize downtown and make it more functional.

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If the city received a transportation enhancement grant from the Federal Highway Administration, and the project was able to proceed, the plans call for the development of Eighth Street between Grove and Indiana streets and High Street between Sixth and Ninth streets.

Corners, which will jut out further to allow pedestrians to check traffic easier, are designed to be laid with brick and feature planters for trees.

Crosswalks would be improved and clearly defined by using brick and scored concrete.

Several sections, like the corners in front of the Baldwin City Public Library and the Chamber of Commerce building, would be developed even more into plaza areas.

Also included in the revitalization plans is the enhancement of the lot west of the American Legion building in the 800 block of High Street.

Huneycutt told the council the idea is to divide the lot so that half of it will contain 23 parking spaces. The other half would be developed as a veterans memorial plaza.

The sidewalks, which would feature a series of centered, raised planters for bushes or flowers, would contain a simple brick pattern. Huneycutt said the plan is to have a two-level sidewalk along High Street, to help the downtown meet the requirements of the American Disability Act

He told the council that many downtown businesses currently are not ADA accessible. By having an upper level part of the sidewalk, it would eliminate stairs going into many of the businesses.

"Right now, accessibility is of significant concern," he said.

Council Member Ted Brecheisen said if the sidewalk was split into two levels, it wouldn't leave room for any Maple Leaf Festival booths.

Council Member Tony Brown said that was a possibility.

"We were sensitive to that," Brown said. "But we were also sensitive to the fact that Maple Leaf is one weekend a year, and that there are 51 other weekends without Maple Leaf. We might have to rethink how we do the booths."

Huneycutt said if the city decided to purchase the property next to the American Legion and the Chamber of Commerce property to develop as part of the revitalization plan, the entire project would cost just a little more than $1.1 million. He said if Baldwin received the grant, the city would be responsible for approximately $340,000 of the project.

If the city is to apply for the grant, the council must OK the plans before Nov. 8.

The council also saw a set of plans Monday for the repair of the Women's Bridge along High Street.

Located just east of 11th Street, adjacent to West Park, the Women's Bridge was built in 1889 by Baldwin's first all-women's council, complete with a woman mayor.

Huneycutt said the bridge, which cost $214 to build, has been in continual use since it was developed.

He said the bridge is functioning with no problems, but some of the rock has deteriorated in the arch. He said there were two ways to solve the problem.

The bridge could be fixed by adding rock from the bottom. Or it could be restored by adding rock from the top, which could close the bridge to traffic for three to four months.

The city can apply for a historical preservation grant to help with expenses, he said. If the decision were made to restore the bridge, which he said would probably be the preferred method, the project could cost between $600,000 and $900,000.

Though Huneycutt said the bridge would be functional for several more years if nothing were done, he encouraged it be repaired, especially because of its historical significance.

"The bridge will function as a bridge for years," he said. "But will it continue to deteriorate? Absolutely. I strongly recommend fixing it."

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