With downtown Decatur’s Second Avenue experiencing renewed business activity along its beautified sidewalks, Bank Street Northeast merchants are eager for a similar experience.
A small stretch of the historic street leading to the Old State Bank will soon see a familiar makeover — new street lamps, landscaping, diagonal parking and benches. The lower Bank Street streetscape will have a similar look — albeit on a smaller scale — as Second Avenue, which underwent a nearly $1 million public streetscaping last year.
Shop owners and city leaders hope the $571,150 Bank Street beautification project will make the quiet, sparsely populated street more inviting. Sidewalks across three blocks, from Vine Street south to around Cain Street, will be improved with flower beds, decorative brick and angular parking.
“A lot of people haven’t located their businesses on this end of Bank Street because it lacks a downtown atmosphere,” said Ellis Chenault, who owns a photography business and the private park Bank Street Green on Bank Street. “To me, it has a more industrial look than retail, even though Bank Street has such a long history as a business area. We’re hoping the overall effect will be to attract more attention down here.”
The Alabama Department of Transportation authorized funding for the project this month. Decatur must match $456,920 in federal money with $114,230. It’s not clear if ALDOT has approved the streetscape plans. But once it has, the city can seek bids, award the contract and proceed with construction. ALDOT officials contacted Wednesday did not know if the plans were finalized.
Whenever work does begin, Bank Street merchants will have to deal with a short-term inconvenience for a long-term benefit, Chenault said. The Second Avenue streetscape took most of 2012 to complete, and at times blocked streets and entrances into businesses.
“I can’t see how it won’t impact us, but as long as the work is done in a timely fashion, I’m excited about it,” said Christy Wiley, owner of Bank Street restaurant Simp McGhee’s. “We’re all going to benefit from it.”
Chenault said he’s heard fellow business owners’ concerns about the work keeping customers away.
“I say, ‘Think about the long-term, what it will be like in a year,’ ” he said. “I think as long as everyone has a good attitude, we’ll get through it fine.”
Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority will help coordinate construction around downtown events to prevent commercial disruption, authority Executive Director Rick Paler said.
“We want to keep everything flowing like normal,” he said. “We’ve seen a great deal more traffic on Second Avenue with the new Mellow Mushroom restaurant, and we’re hoping that with the streetscape, we’ll see more businesses come to Bank Street.”
Tiffeny Owens can be reached at 256-340-2440 or email@example.com.
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