JEFFERSON — Jefferson residents and visitors to the city alike can look forward to a nicer-looking and safer downtown in the coming years, as leaders ponder tackling an ambitious project to update the streets-cape of the county seat.
According to Jefferson City Engineer Bill Pinnow, officials are looking at budgetary estimates from project planners and are narrowing the scope of the work as planning progresses, with some of the labor scheduled to begin in the latter half of 2022.
Pinnow and City Administrator Tim Freitag said they are striving to achieve a project plan that is cost-effective, while bringing Jefferson’s downtown appearance and atmosphere more in line with the current century. The last time the overall look and feel of Jefferson’s downtown was addressed was in the early- to mid-1990s.
“We anticipate design in the winter,” Pinnow said, following a meeting of the Jefferson Common Council Tuesday in which he presented ideas to aldermen. “We are looking at bidding in the spring of 2022 and then doing the project work in the second half of next year to coincide with the Riverside Alley project.”
Utilities in Riverside Alley are to be buried underground for safety and aesthetic purposes.
The cost of the project is included in the 2022 city budget and Pinnow said Jefferson currently is trying to determine if it wants to perform the work all at once, or in phases.
“We are determining the scope,” Pinnow said.
The total, tentative project cost would be $1,255,000.
Pinnow said the downtown street-scape renovation project is the brainchild of several entities in Jefferson, including city staff and the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. The city has had help from the planners of VandeWalle and Associates.
Consideration of the project has been going on for at least two years.
The work area includes Dodge Street, from Main Street west to Rotary Park on the south end; Milwaukee Street, from Center Avenue west to the pedestrian bridge; and Racine Street west from Center Avenue to Main Street. The renovations will run on Main Street from Dodge Street north to East Mechanic Street.
According to project plans, the street-scape improvements might include building off of existing assets, such as what designers have called the city’s “exceptional historic building facades” of yellow brick. The wood and black steel pedestrian bridge is a major asset that is being used as a project anchor.
Also being put into focus are historic streets of red brick and the natural wood, and primary color assets of street signs of the city’s recent, “We’re going outside” branding initiative.
Plans also call for replacing damaged, outdated trash cans, benches and planters, as well as accent paver bricks.
Overall design concepts call for intersection enhancements with paver bricks and fresh paint, and connections to the pedestrian bridge and planned alley improvements. Raised tree roots of mature trees will be addressed and new trees added.
Tree grates also are expected to be replaced. Under the plans, as they now tentatively stand, street trees also are to be lighted at night with themed seasonal colors. The bases of some trees might be surrounded by raised, rectangular planters.
Freitag called the overall project “fairly expansive” and said the city does need to perform work downtown just to make it safe for pedestrians. Since major work last was done downtown almost three decades ago, heaving of bricks near intersections and along sidewalks has occurred, along with other hazards.
“Our infrastructure is deteriorating,” Freitag said. “Our trees have to be replaced and we went beyond that in our planning to replace the mid-1990s streets-cape. But we are just talking concepts right now.”
Among some of the aesthetics of the plan that have yet to be settled upon would be informational kiosks in the downtown that would be inspired by the appealing design of the city’s landmark pedestrian bridge over the Rock River downtown. Riverfront connections to Main Street would be enhanced and access to Rotary Park on the river would be increased as part of this.
Tentative cost estimates have site preparations and demolition at $65,000, with new pavers and concrete repair at $275,000; crosswalks at $140,000; trees, $160,000; tree lighting, $100,000; street-cape elements, $155,000; public art and gateway elements, $75,000; and design/engineering/contingencies at $255,000. City officials said cost estimated are for planning purposes only.