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Avenue anew: Paving project drives streetscape ideas

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(Does not include suggested improvements to downtown streetscape)

What: Resurfacing and below-surface utility upgrades along five blocks of Wenatchee Avenue between Second and Kittitas streets in downtown Wenatchee

When: Set to begin in spring of 2014 and continue for two to three months

Street upgrades: Repaving, truck prevention barriers (signs or mini-roundabouts at intersections), traffic signal upgrades to allow left turns from Wenatchee Avenue onto Orondo Avenue.

Utility upgrades: Relining of sewer pipes, 10 fireline extensions to buildings with possible redevelopment of upper floors, possible replacement of 17 water service connectors.

Other upgrades: Replace direction signs, install new irrigation lines for trees and planters, replace banner brackets on street lamp poles.

Cost: $1,798,995

— Source: City of Wenatchee Public Works Department

(Suggested improvements beyond the basic overlay and utility upgrades)

TRAFFIC FIXES

A roundabout at the intersection of Second Street and Wenatchee Avenue

Intersection and mid-block “bulbouts” that extend into the street to shorten the distance for pedestrians in crosswalks. This includes some new curbs and pavers.

A tractor-trailer prevention barrier at Second Street.

LIGHTS, BENCHES AND BIKE RACKS

Repaint poles and replace globes on light fixtures

Energy-efficient LED lights

Wood and stainless-steel trash containers instead of plastic

More artistic, well-placed bike racks

Large, ceramic flower pots with mixed native plants

Sleeker, more functional benches

NEW TREES

Remove and replace at least 20 downtown trees in the worst condition

Source: Last year, the Wenatchee Downtown Association hosted a series of six monthly meetings to explain proposed Wenatchee Avenue improvements and elicit comments from business people and residents. The WDA also conducted surveys of Avenue business people and downtown shoppers.

WENATCHEE — Nearly 15 years of cars, trucks, bikes, parades, walkers, shoppers, plowed snow and baking sun have taken their toll on the main thoroughfare through the city’s commercial core.

Wenatchee Avenue is ready for a facelift,” said Linda Haglund, executive director of the Wenatchee Downtown Association. “But how much of one?”

That’s the question facing downtown property owners, commercial tenants, business managers and residents as the city prepares a $1.8 million resurfacing of the five busy blocks between Second and Kittitas streets, not upgraded since 1999.

Set to begin in spring 2014, the months-long repaving and utilities project will kick up dust, disrupt traffic and likely displease more than a few business people as the old street surface is stripped off, underground water and sewer lines upgraded and a new surface laid down. City officials said they’re hoping to minimize the mess and keep traffic flowing by doing much of the work at night.

The good news? “This is a huge opportunity for us to make further improvements to our already people-friendly downtown,” said Haglund. “It’s going to be messy, so we should take advantage of that, make improvements and have the mess just once.”

A revitalization of the historic downtown’s tired streetscape, last upgraded in 1989, could include adjustments to traffic flow, the rerouting of trucks, better landscaping, new street furniture, modern lighting and attention to curbside trees — some sick, some just overgrown.

At this point, nothing’s certain beyond the repaving and improved utility lines,” said Haglund. “The rest? Well, we gathered suggestions, but we’re not sure yet how much we can afford and how we can fund it.”

Nobody’s sure yet how much the extra streetscape improvements would cost, but a very rough estimate by civic and business leaders puts the total at around $1 million.

We’re really hesitant to put a dollar figure on these (streetscape) improvements,” said Assistant City Engineer Matt Leonard, “since the hard costs haven’t been figured yet.”

In coming months, city and business leaders have said they’ll draw up a menu of options with estimated costs for each suggested improvement. Some downtown property and business owners have insisted on this step before talks begin on how to pay for the upgrades.

At an open house on the project last week, funding options for streetscape improvements had been narrowed down to one — a Local Improvement District (LID) that would assess property owners fees based on the size of parcels owned. If approved, the LID assessments would take effect in 2015.

LIDs are a hot-button topic for the business community,” admitted Haglund. “We still need lots of discussion on this so we can strike the right balance and make improvements that really pay off in the long run.”

Funding for the repaving and below-surface utility upgrades is much more certain, said Leonard. The city will pay for the nearly $1.8 million project with the help of a $499,894 federal grant and monies from various public works funds, including a matching amount from the city street overlay fund and $426,765 from the city sewer fund.

Some street overlay details:

Matching monies from the city’s overlay fund — $499,804 — mostly comes from the Transportation Benefit District, which assesses a $20 fee on new cartabs.

Sewer line improvements will involve insertion of an expandable liner within existing pipes. The liner will enlarge to seal leaks and holes.

Ten fireline extensions are also included in the below-surface utility upgrades to serve buildings where second- and third-floor development — mostly residential — has been considered and improved fire protection requred.

Traffic lights at the intersection of Wenatchee and Orondo avenues could be upgraded to allow left turns onto Orondo. Turn signals would need to be installed. The improvement would give a smoother flow to traffic headed to the new Pybus Public Market at the foot of Orondo.

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business or follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.

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