At two public presentations last month, City staff answered questions from business owners and residents about planned improvements at two primary downtown Purchase Street intersections: Smith Street and Elm Place.
By Robin Jovanovich
At two public presentations last month, City staff answered questions from business owners and residents about planned improvements at two primary downtown Purchase Street intersections: Smith Street and Elm Place. The improvements were approved by voters in a referendum in 2012. The project is close to going out to bid and hopefully work will begin in May.
There will be dust and an interruption in traffic flow and our daily routine, as well as even less downtown parking, for a number of weeks. But with luck, the project will be close to completion in time for the Sidewalk Sale in July.
“This is a dozen or more years of what the community has asked for implicitly and explicitly,” said City Planner Christian Miller. “We’ve moved in incremental steps, starting with the Purchase Street Streetscape in 2002, the Central Business District plan in 2007, and the removal of the traffic signals at Elm and Locust Avenue — as a test — in 2010.” The project has been in design since 2012, as various alternatives were considered to enhance the pedestrian experience and replace the deteriorated infrastructure.
Miller noted that previous plans included making Purchase Street a covered walkway or a one-way street, both of which were ruled impractical. “We also looked at a different configuration of bump-outs, diagonal parking, making Smith Street one-way and even creating a pocket park there.”
The final plan includes raised intersections at Smith and Elm, ADA-compliant crosswalks with traffic-calming measures, granite curbs, and updated street lighting. Three to four parking spots will be lost in the redesign to improve sightlines. During the construction there will be a one-way traffic pattern on Purchase Street and crews will work on one-half of the street at a time. Both a fire hydrant and the bus stop will be relocated.
Once the dust settles, the plan calls for the building of tree wells and the planting of trees that don’t heave up and cause sidewalks to crack. The ginkgo tree on Elm will be the first to go.
The City Planner, who came to work here in 2000, says his job is to “under-promise and over-deliver” with this project. While no one can ever predict whether the service providers will keep to the schedule, Miller is confident that the improvements will be here for generations to come.