Mall moves: Second Street to get $800k 'scaping
While our colleague Allan Smithee is certainly a talented writer, he sometime plays a little fast and loose with the facts. [See "The Rutabaga–editor.]
Second Street SE on the Downtown Mall may look like a trash site right now, but Neighborhood Development chief Jim Tolbert assures us that an $808,000 streetscaping project is scheduled to begin in September. The project was originally planned to be completed in coordination with the construction of the Landmark Hotel, but as that project appears to be stalled indefinitely, the city has decided not to wait.
According to city engineer Tony Edwards, the project should take about four months. And the eye-popping price tag? That appears to be the result of lessons learned on the $400,000 Third Street streetscaping project.
As Downtown mavens and merchant recall all too vividly from 2007-08, unexpected engineering problems made Third Street unusable for over a year, as burying overhead utilities–- electric, cable, telephone–- was stalled by having to replace an old tangle of water and sewer lines, resulting in a project that Edwards admitted was "more complicated than we thought it would be."
"One reason that Second Street is more expensive is that bidders know what happened at Third Street with all the unknowns underground," says Tolbert. "The other reason is that this project includes taking the utilities along Water Street on both sides of the intersection underground."
The streetscape portion of the project will be nearly identical to Third Street, and involve extending the brickwork from building face to building face down to Water Street, burying utilities, and adding street lighting, benches, caf© areas, and trees. Philadelphia-based Wallace Roberts & Todd, which designed the Third Street make-over and just wrapped up work on the J&DR Courthouse, will handle Second Street as well. Mall re-bricking contractor Barton Malow, who impressed with their speedy work on the Mall, will handle the construction management, as the city hopes to avoid another Third Street fiasco.
As some may recall, merchants and businesses like Fleurie and Rapture restaurants were frustrated by the Third Street delays. Managers at Rapture couldn't take deliveries on the street, and when patrons exited Fleurie, one of Charlottesville's most exclusive and expensive restaurants, they were greeted by a large yellow port-a-potty. Because of the construction and fencing, Shirley Barrett, who owned a nail shop at the time, said her elderly customers had stopped coming. Barrett would eventually close her shop.
"It's going to hurt for a little while," says Hal Brindley, owner of Oyster 2 antiques on Second Street, who is well aware of what happened on Third Street. "I'm hoping the infrastructure is okay here, but I think the odds are good there won't be as many problems." Brindley was also concerned about losing an off-street parking spot he owns on the street, but says the city agreed to give him free parking in one of the Downtown garages.
Of course, looking out the window of his shop, the upcoming streetscaping project doesn't weigh nearly as heavily on his mind as "getting that stupid hotel built."
"I would be pleased with a hotel across the street, especially a luxury one," says Brindley, but says he would settle for condominiums, something besides the giant concrete skeleton next door.
Asked if there were any concerns about the new streetscaping getting compromised should the hotel project start up again, Tolbert says any digging for the hotel on the street has already been done.
"They will have to erect scaffolding on it," he says, "but they will have to bond against any damage, just as they would have to do on the Mall side."