Miracle Mall? Re-bricking project almost done
Back in August, one long-time Downtown business owner expressed some skepticism about the proposed timeline for the $7.5 million Mall renovation project. Though the business owner hoped the project would go as planned, he said "if they get it done in that time frame, it will be a miracle."
Apparently, we have a miracle on our hands. While there are still a few things left to do, and–- in one case–- undo, a majority of the project, which commenced on January 4, has been finished on time and 15 percent under budget, says neighborhood development chief Jim Tolbert.
Tolbert credits Barton Malow, the general contractor for the project, the MMM Design team, and the "great cooperation" between his staff and the downtown merchants and property owners for the success of the project.
"I think this is a model of how to do projects in the future," he says.
"We went through a long process of public involvement," Tolbert told City Council at its May 4 meeteing. "The thing I'm probably proudest of," Tollbert said, "we told folks we'd start on January 4 and finish on May 1. And they thought we were nuts."
Tolbert's not kidding. At a packed public hearing last June, nearly 150 people showed up to voice concern about the proposed $7.5 million Mall renovation, a culmination of months of public scrutiny over the design, cost, and necessity of the project. A majority who spoke at the hearing opposed replacing the bricks and wondered why the city couldn't just fix the old ones, and one speaker called the notion of a five-month timeline "insane."
If critics of City's pace may have to eat crow, some crowing about getting the project done on time may be a little premature. For instance, construction continues in front of the Omni hotel and the skating rink, where workers replaced a concrete slab that bowed like "a turtle's back," according to Tolbert.
"There was no way to get the granite and the bricks to lay properly," explained Tolbert, "so we just dug it up and re-poured."
In addition, two misaligned strips of "truncated dome banding" at the Second and Fourth Street vehicle crossings, which are designed with protruding knobs to alert pedestrian feet, will need to be reset. Tolbert says they would be fixed "soon."
Tolbert also notes that planters, benches, bike racks and tree lights have yet to be re-installed, and that work refurbishing the fountains will occur in the next couple of weeks.
Chris Weatherford, the project manager for Barton Malow, says they're waiting for more input about preferred locations for the benches before laying them out, as they will be attached to the Mall surface. He also said that the company is preparing to re-brick and repair Second Street SE–- the side street that runs beside the unfinished Landmark Hotel–- a project that Tolbert says should be finished this summer.
And what's with the rusty grates around the trees?
"They'll be that way for about three months," says Tolbert, " and then they turn to a bronze/black color and stay that way. If you treat or paint them, it ruins them forever."
And what about those single granite bricks scatted around?
"The single granite bricks are marking the fire lane and caf© corners and vendor locations," says Tolbert. "They were always part of the plan."
Weatherford says the Mall project should be "finish finished" by May 29 for the scheduled re-dedication ceremony at Central Place.