Streetscape Project Progress[edit | edit source]Click to Enlarge (pdf File)With the Iron Block out of the way, and the federal highway bill finally being passed, the city was then able to commence with work on the project. On May 5, 2006, work finally began with a groundbreaking ceremony by city and state officials. Work on the underground projects was started first. Sidewalks were torn up as workers filled in old, unused vaults, and utility crews began their work on replacing and lowering power, phone, gas and water lines. In early 2007, problems arose when Verizon decided that, instead of lowering existing phone lines, it would have to replace them completely with new fiber optic cables. Originally, Verizion stated that it could not begin the work until 2009. This would set the project back by four years, since no work above ground could be completed until all utility companies completed their work underground. An agreement was finally reached with Verizon, as well as Nation Grid, to get the underground work completed in 2007. The above ground work, which was scheduled to be completed toward the end of 2007, was put off during the entire construction season, while the utility companies completed their work. This pushed the project's completion back until sometime in 2008, and also increased the entire budget of the project even more.
In late 2007, it was announced that a grant had been awarded for the restoration of the facades of five buildings on Public Square. As some businesses on the square have struggled to stay afloat, the facades of some buildings have been neglected, and are in need of work. The facade improvements are considered a bonus to the Streetscape Project, as restored buildings will enhance the appearance of the redesigned square. Although it is being kept secret which buildings will benefit from the facade grant, it is believed that the restorations will focus on buildings on the square's north side, including the Wing Wagon, Black River Music and the Crystal Restaurant buildings, among others. The Wing Wagon building was the first to receive a facade restoration in 2010, and by 2012, restorations three other buildings were completed.
In 2008, the status of the project was announced. The utility companies, which had worked through most of the winter, would be finished with their work by April. Work could then commence on the paving and landscaping, the entire project being scheduled for completion by November, 2008. It was also announced that, due to the numerous delays, the project was projected to be almost another million dollars over budget, bringing the total cost of the project to over $6 million. The city debated, and decided to proceed with all of the projects planned, funding the overage by cutting back on other projects. On June 2, the city adopted a new fiscal budget, which included borrowing an additional $750,000 to cover the cost of improving traffic signals and rising fuel prices. The total cost now stands at just over $7 million.
Workmen have laid out curbing for the reconstruction of Anthony Street, a one way road which ran from Public Square to the J.B. Wise parking lot. This road was demolished, along with the Hotel Woodruff in 1976. This road will allow access to the J.B. Wise parking lot from Public Square. Although the curbing has been installed, the road will not be built until 2011 as part of the J.B. Wise Reconstruction Project. Anthony Street and the J. B. Wise project were completed in 2012.
On June 16, 2008, engineers announced that there were complications with the fountain restoration. Limestone blocks that line the fountain bowl have deteriorated to such an extent that they need to be replaced. Cost estimates for new limestone range from $100,000 to $150,000, while the cost of concrete replicas would cost around $15,000. The City Council gave an informal approval to the installation of the concrete replicas. On August 18, it was announced that the fountain statue will be reinstalled the first week of October. The entire streetscape project will be nearing completion at this time, the late date being chosen so there will be minimal risk of damaging the statue during construction.
With paving completed in September, workman began striping the road and laying out the lanes for the new traffic pattern. This caused confusion to motorists, as the new traffic light system had yet to be installed. The traffic light and signal work was completed by mid-October, and the new left hand turn lanes, from Washington St. to Arsenal/Court Sts. and from Mill St. to State St. were opened to motorists.
On September 19, 2008, city officials announced that, beginning September 22, workman will begin work on the fountain bowl, pouring new concrete and installing the new concrete blocks that will line the bowl. The fountain's statue was re-installed October 21, 2008.
The final work on street lighting, brickwork and landscaping in November 2008 marked the completion of the streetscape project.