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Work to turn the area into a pedestrian plaza could begin in January and last until March.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Roanoke is poised to move forward with converting Market Square into a pedestrian plaza this winter, even though a second pass at finding a contractor produced another solo bid for well more than the project’s budget.
“I think the plan is to move forward with the project. … We plan to make a decision before the end of the week,” said Assistant City Manager Sherman Stovall. “We think the timing is still right given that Elmwood Park will be completed in the next week and the link between the market building and Elmwood Park is just a vital link.”
The city delayed the project once after the lone bid on the project earlier this year, from S.C. Rossi, came in well over budget. The project was put out to bid again, and last month a single bid was received from MB Contractors at $1.12 million. The appropriated budget for it is $700,000.
Stovall said the city has $500,000 in a fund for streetscape projects it will use to close the gap.
Work will begin in January and should be done by the end of March to avoid creating havoc during the peak season for market businesses and vendors in the spring, Stovall said. The short time frame is also intended to minimize the impact on businesses that just recently endured the Roanoke City Market Building and Center in the Square renovations.
He thinks the compressed time frame and requirement for the work to be done during the winter kept some contractors away and required the city to pay a premium to the one company that did bid.
“I think that’s a lot of what we’re paying for,” Stovall said.
It’s also a complex project that includes not only visible changes, but infrastructure upgrades that account for $285,000 of the cost. In addition, the city must pay $70,000 toward Appalachian Power Co. costs of raising a vent stack for an electrical vault that’s beneath Market Square.
The most visible change, though, will be the conversion of the square, which is essentially a parking lot today, to a brick-paver covered pedestrian area that’s level with the existing sidewalk. Twenty-six parking spaces in the square will be lost, Stovall said. The sidewalk along Campbell Avenue will be expanded to eliminate parking along that street, as well, the plan shows.
The awning-covered tables along the sidewalks in front of Roanoke Wiener Stand on the west and Blues BBQ and Gift Niche on the east will be moved closer to Campbell Avenue.
Street lights and landscaping are also part of the plan.
Market Street itself would remain open to vehicular traffic, Stovall said.
The project will be the third major disruption in the market area, but should be the last for a long time, at least as far as the city is concerned, Stovall said.
While three more months of construction will be uncomfortable, Stovall said, he believes it will be worth it for the vista that will be created looking from the market building south toward the new amphitheater.
“The easy thing to do would be to do nothing,” he said, “but that doesn’t make it the right thing.”
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