Downtown Revitalization project moving into final-plan phase
Belfast — City councilors listened to a brief update on the status of the Downtown Revitalization Plan to enhance and improve infrastructure in the area around Cross Street.
Those plans, according to previously published reports, indicate the goal of the improvements is to increase the connectivity between the downtown and Belfast Common by adjusting traffic flow along Cross Street and installing a focal point at the entrance into Belfast Common that would be visible from Main Street in order to attract pedestrians to the area.
In addition, the city would also create additional parking spaces on Cross, Miller and Spring streets. Project Administrator Ron Harriman estimated the project would create about 40 parking spaces.
Some of the key proposals of the project would include changing Cross Street to one-way traffic from the southern edge of the public parking lot to the intersection of Spring Street. The street would continue to accommodate two-way traffic between Main Street and the public parking lot, according to previously published reports.
Other improvements include the construction of roughly 1,400 linear feet of crosswalks and sidewalks, the installation of pedestrian-scale lighting, and updating and redesigning utilities and drainage.
City Planner Wayne Marshall briefed councilors on the status of the project and stated a finalized plan will be brought before officials later this month. He then explained some of the new developments since the project was last discussed earlier in the year.
Marshall said he was pleased to report the city acquired an easement with the owner of a property at 2 Cross St., which will allow the city to construct a sidewalk in front of the building.
He also said the committee has chosen a different design for the bollards that will be installed in Belfast Common. The design the committee has previously chosen are no longer produced, so he said the committee instead chose a concrete-looking square bollard.
Marshall noted the bollards will have lights to provide low-level lighting in Belfast Common.
“The plans are coming really well together,” Marshall said.
With that being said, Marshall highlighted one issue that has come to light recently. Marshall said after speaking with Public Works Director Bob Richards, he was made aware of a rock drain that extends from Cross Street and down to Front Street before it empties into the bay. He explained the drain is essentially just one large rock placed on top of another large rock to allow water to pass through.
Marshall said the Downtown Revitalization committee has asked the city's project consultant, Sebago Technics, to look at possible options for addressing the rock drain. He said it probably would not be a good idea to leave the rock drain in place for the long term, but potential alternatives will be identified when the final plans for the project are presented on April 15.
As Marshall concluded his presentation, he noted that the Belfast Water District is planning to undertake its own water service improvement project. New water service will be installed along Cross and Spring streets, and parts of Miller Street, Marshall said, at the same time the city begins work on the Downtown Revitalization project.
The work being done by the water district is important, Marshall said, because the existing water service in the area would probably not be able to provide the pressure necessary for a sprinkler system, but the service upgrades will correct that issue.
Councilor Nancy Hamilton pointed out that the Downtown Revitalization project is not being done to “prettify” Cross Street, rather it is an issue of economic development.
City Manager Joseph Slocum noted the improvements the city is looking to make would create a more attractive area for future redevelopment.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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