ONARCHITECTURE- Street cred: Third Street blues II?
When we wrote about the City's approach to completing the side streets on the Downtown Mall ["Downtown Mall: City works sideways on side streets," April 10], we reported that the recent renovation of Third Street had come with an $800,000 price tag. Last November, a City engineer confirmed that figure and even provided a reason for the cost overrun: "There are a lot of services being installed underground there, and it's become more complicated than we thought it would be."
Before those complications arose, the city had rejected a high bid of $765,000.
However, according to City spokesperson Ric Barrick, that $800,000 figure is for the renovation of Third Street and the Second Street crossing. The Third Street renovation by itself, Barrick says, should end up costing taxpayers around $400,000 once the project is "accepted."
Barrick explains that sandwich-board signs reading "pedestrians only" were placed at the Market Street entrance to discourage vehicles from mistaking the new bricks for a crossing, and to bar other vehicles whose drivers might not put a plastic tarp under the engine carriage to keep oil from spilling onto the Mall.
"There will be delivery access, but right now we have not accepted the project from the construction company," Barrick said, "which means they can be held liable for any damage."
The good news: for side street fans, it means that our speculations on the cost of completing the remaining side streets not currently in the works or being done privately (the Market Street side of First Street, the Market Street side of Second Street SE, the Water Street side of Third, and Fifth Street) would be cut in half– from $4 million to just $2 million. While the city has no plans to focus on completing the Mall's side streets, choosing instead to focus on a $7 million renovation of the Mall's main thoroughfare– including replacing the existing brick work– some developers, planners, architects, and business owners wonder why there's no focus on "completing" the Mall by finally burying the utilities and bricking the side streets. An equal number say the disintegrating Mall brickwork and infrastructure make it a priority.
Of course, the Third Street renovation has been no picnic, especially for businesses there. Although Third Street looks pedestrian-friendly and beautiful today, unexpected engineering problems rendered the street unusable for over a year, apparently sinking one business and frustrating others.
Now it appears the street's troubles may not be over.
According to James Toliver, the kitchen manager at Rapture, those "pedestrian only" signs are up for another reason.
"We were told that the concrete slab underneath the brick work did not pass a stress test," he says, "and that it may have to be dug up again."
Barrick confirms that a small area of the concrete slab near the Market Street entrance did fail a stress test, and that the bricks there may need to be pulled up. In the meantime, engineers are continuing to test the rest of the street to make sure the concrete slab meets the desired weight threshold. As Barrick points out, that threshold would ideally need to bear the weight of fire trucks, buses, and delivery vehicles. However, Barrick adds that the street will not have to be dug up: reenforcing sections of the concrete slab– if the work is necessary– should not be that complicated or take too long, and the tab for the entire project should still come in under $400,000.
Given the project's history, Toliver appears to have gone through a stress test of his own, and his frustration is evident.
"There's been no access to the restaurant, no place for deliveries, no handicap access, no place for our cooking oil bin..." he says "...for a year and a half!"
Kiosk que c'est? Mall fixture up for bid
If you've missed the old kiosk on the Downtown Mall, that's because it vanished sometime last week.
According to Neighborhood Development Chief Jim Tolbert, the kiosk was hauled away by the public works department and placed in the city yard to await its fate. In a story on the kiosk last month, Tolbert told the Hook that the kiosk was going to be "scrapped," then added, "but if someone wanted it, if they'd be willing to haul it away, they could take it."
A fixture on the Mall since the early 1990s, the old kiosk was the brain-child of developer Lee Danielson (he's bringing us the new $30 million Landmark Hotel), who secured a lease from the city for the structure and persuaded SNL founder Reid Nagle to pay for it and hire someone to run it as a newsstand.
Made of western red cedar, and with a copper roof and counter, the $20,000 structure was built by Rick Wyatt of Gaston & Wyatt cabinetmakers, who worked from a sketch Danielson provided.
Nagle eventually donated the kiosk to the City, and since then it's been a tobacco shop, a gift shop, a newsstand again, a happening nightspot for a time, and most recently a flower shop.
After the Hook's story ran, we received at least a half dozen calls from people wanting the kiosk and asking for Tolbert's number, and Tolbert says he fielded at least another dozen calls. Given the kiosk's value and history, it appears the city has changed its mind about scrapping it or giving it away. According to Tolbert, the kiosk is now going to be put out to bid, and he advises anyone interested to check the city website for an upcoming announcement of the time and place.
"I just wanted it for my backyard," says downtown resident Pete Rainey, one of those who contacted the Hook. "I thought it would look kind of cool back there."
Let the bidding begin: this familiar kiosk, which first graced the Mall in the early 1990s, now rests in the city yard awaiting its fate.
FILE PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR