By BRADEN LAMMERS
Chestnut Street in Jeffersonville is being redesigned as a gateway from the Big Four bicycle and pedestrian bridge into the city’s historic downtown.
But before the revamped road is complete, it will likely cause some headaches for downtown businesses and drivers.
Jeffersonville announced its plans in the fall to reconstruct Chestnut Street, and the city received a $250,000 Main Street Revitalization grant from the state to help pay for the road to be widened. The improvement project would also include bike lanes, sidewalks, new lighting, bike racks, benches and new trees. The Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission is paying $128,619 in matching funds from the Falls Landing TIF and the Urban Enterprise Zone plans to cover the remainder of the city’s expenses for the project.
Tom Wood, with Pace Contracting LLC, presented the tentative plans for closures surrounding the Chestnut Street reconstruction at a Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday. The total duration of the closures is expected to last 60 days, but the most significant closure will be in effect for one week.
“The intersection of Chestnut Street and Spring Street is going to be closed for the first week [of construction],” Wood said.
He added that when the intersection is closed Spring Street from Market to Maple streets will be blocked off and Chestnut Street from Wall to Spring streets will be shut down. The closure is slated to start Monday, July 15 and last until Monday, July 22. After which Spring Street would be reopened, but Chestnut Street, from Pearl to Spring streets would remain closed through the duration of the project.
However, city officials offered their concerns about limiting the access to the businesses along Spring Street during the closure.
Wood explained the reason the closures were suggested on Spring Street from Market to Maple streets is because there is no way to get out of the area.
“It doesn’t bother us that you leave that open, but I’m afraid you’re going to have people trying to leave running into each other,” Wood said. “If we let people pull in and park [along Spring Street] they would have to be turning around in the street ... and I think it would create problems.”
After some discussion City Engineer Andy Crouch suggested closing the roads to through traffic and creating a turnaround at the public parking lot off of Spring Street before the Chestnut Street intersection, across from Horner Novelty. He added that traveling northbound on Spring Street, away from the Ohio River, the road could be closed at Preservation Place, an alley between Spring and Pearl streets before the Chestnut Street intersection.
Two apartment complexes along Chestnut Street will also be affected by the closures. Residents at a complex at 300 Pearl St. will retain access to the parking lot behind the building, but the complex at 124 Chestnut St. will not be able to access its parking lot from Chestnut Street.
“That’s right in the middle of the job and we can’t keep that one open,” Wood said.
Secondary access for the residents at the Chestnut Street apartments will be available off of Maple Street and through an alley off of Spring Street. The plan discussed was not finalized Wednesday, but the details will be hammered out before work begins July 15. The construction is expected to be completed by Sept. 15.
“If we don’t get everything done, we [at least] need to have all the road work done so the lanes can be used,” Wood said. “It’s our plan and our intent ... to have the entire job done the 15th of September,” he added.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the project is planned for 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 11, on Chestnut Street between Spring and Pearl streets.
NOWHERE TO GO
Another project slated to begin next week could cause some additional problems for the city.
Peter Gerstle, representing The Harbors Condominiums, asked for some assistance from the city in providing a place to park for residents of the towers along Riverside Drive, while the parking garage is being rehabilitated.
“We’re going to have 360 cars, potentially, out on the street,” Gerstle said. “We’ve got a big problem logistically dumping all these cars onto the street and under the bridge.”
The project, scheduled to begin Monday, July 8 and last through Thursday, July 25, will displace the residents’ cars while crews power wash, restripe and fix construction issues with the parking garage.
But with ongoing city projects and the Ohio River Bridges Project construction ramping up, Mayor Mike Moore urged that the project be delayed.
“I strongly recommend you all choose another time to do this,” he said. “There is going to be so much congestion down there there’s no way we’re going to be able to do anything extra to accommodate [the cars].”
Again several suggestions were offered for the residents of the condos like providing parking at the former Frank’s Steakhouse property, at other city owned lots and that the residents could use the park and ride near 10th Street until it is absorbed by the bridges project.
Public Works Director Rick Lovan agreed to review the options with Gerstle to try and reach a solution.
The board of public works unanimously approved a long-term lease for the Jeffersonville Firefighters Local 558 Union Hall at 700 E. 11th St.
The building, which is owned by the city, but has been leased to the firefighters’ union for more than 10 years, has undergone a transformation. To rebuild the space the firefighters’ union received about $70,000 through gifts and a low-interest loan from First Harrison Bank, and has invested about the same amount from the fire union, said Jeffersonville Fire Department Chief Eric Hedrick.
A street dance was held last week to benefit the Community Help Fund, with some of the proceeds going to the union, and also included an open house so the public could get a glimpse of the renovated space.
Despite the building being leased to the firefighters’ union for more than a decade, Jeffersonville Corporation Attorney Les Merkley said the current lease was out-of-date. In order to extend the lease through several administrations and protect the investment the union has made, a lease of $1 per year, for 50 years was offered.
“The lease specifically says it is to be used for a union hall and if it’s not used for a union hall then the lease is void,” Merkley said.