NEW ALBANY — Most of the block of Market Street, between Pearl and State streets, has all but been closed since March. Businesses along that block have remained open, but there have been a few inconveniences.
Parking on the north side of the block has been off limits and water seeped into the first floor of Terry Middleton's Kickboxing/Boxing and Martial Arts School recently while the old sidewalk was being demolished.
But in a few months, all of that will be forgotten. For Middleton, it already has.
"I think they are doing a fabulous job," Middleton said. "Projects like this are going to cost you a little effort. They are meticulously working on it and making sure everything will be just right."
The block will still have a median in the center, but it will look much different when completed. There will be decorative lighting, trees, benches and tables along the block and a lit arch spelling out Market Street that will grab everyone's attention, city engineer Larry Summers said. He also said motorists will appreciate turning lanes being added to will help traffic move more freely. Sidewalks along the block will also be ADA compliant.
"It's really going to have some nice elements to it," Summers said. "We are creating a neat place there."
The work is expected to be finished by Sept. 2 and the price tag will be around $800,000. The work is being paid for as part of a $5 million grant from the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County. Other projects to be covered by the grant include ongoing facade work downtown and improvements to New Albany's riverfront, which will begin later this year.
"It's going to be a wonderful addition to downtown New Albany," Mayor Jeff Gahan said. "It's going to have some nice elements that people are really going to like, and it will be a functional street."
Gahan singled out the Horseshoe Foundation for making it possible.
"It's going to be more attractive, better for vehicles, and will have more pedestrian space," the mayor said.
Middleton said when the sidewalk was demolished, water got through the cracks and into his business, but that has all been corrected now that the new sidewalk has been poured. Middleton has had his business on Market Street since 1972 and is excited about the update to the block.
"It's going to be beautiful," he said. "It will be like a gateway to the downtown with all the amenities, lights, and all the details. It's going to be really nice."
All Terrain Paving & Construction is the contractor for the Market Street improvements.
Jerry Finn, executive director of the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County, said the Horseshoe Foundation Board is committed to helping make the community "a place where business thrives and people enjoy time spent in New Albany."
"We are excited and encouraged by the continued renaissance of New Albany," he said. "The facades grant to encourage preservation and restoration of historical buildings as well as the Market Streetscape improvements are two ways of many the Foundation is supporting the transformation of the downtown historical district."
Summers said once the work is completed, the block of Market from State to Pearl streets will be "one of the cool places to be downtown."
While Market Street work is winding down, several other road improvement projects in the city are also moving forward — some quicker than others.
Mount Tabor Road is expected to open to traffic next month. Summers said work along Grant Line, from Beechwood to Academy Drive is "chugging along." It is expected to be wrapped up by the end of the year.
However, improvements to Slate Run, which includes adding sidewalks, may not be finished until early 2020. Work has been slowed by utility relocation. Summers also said it's important to keep Slate Run open during construction. The new Slate Run Elementary School will open next month.