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Streetscape project could nclude new sidewalks

February 12, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Shepherdstown officials are hoping that an estimated $1.25 million streetscape project downtown can begin by fall.

The project could include new sidewalks and streetlights, a "pedestrian plaza" at McMurran Hall and pedestrian-friendly areas on King Street at the town's farmers market.

At least as far back as 2004, Shepherdstown officials have been considering a revitalization of the downtown area to address obvious needs such as replacing buckling sidewalks.

Some sections of brick sidewalks have buckled, causing hazardous conditions and other areas where the sidewalks are nothing but mud and rubble, town officials have said.

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At one point, the project was put on hold to determine its impact on the town's finances, Mayor Lance Dom said.

Town officials later decided to put a spending cap of $1.25 million on the project and two state Division of Highways grants have been obtained to help finance it, Dom said.

Fifteen firms expressed an interest in the project and town officials narrowed the list to four for consideration, said Dom, adding that a selection on the firm to do the work will probably be reached within a few weeks.

Design work is still progressing, and town officials are concentrating on a new streetscape design on German Street between Church and Princess streets, Dom said. The project could also take in other areas, such as along King Street where Town Hall is situated and where a farmers market operates, Dom said.

The basic parts of the project will call for new sidewalks, streetlights, street repaving, new storm water management areas and maybe some sitting benches, Dom said.

Although design of the sidewalks is still being considered, it could be an "eclectic" design of alternating brick and concrete, Dom said.

Regarding streetlights, Shepherd University officials have said they would like to see lights which project light downward and town officials seem to like that approach, Dom said.

The lights might have a historical feel, Dom said.

"But we're not trying to get too cute," he said.

On King Street around the town's farmers market, town officials are thinking about a streetscape design that will accentuate the pedestrian atmosphere around the market and possibly restrict vehicle traffic, Dom said.

"We want to make it a more design-intensive look," Dom said.

Other possible features include a "pedestrian plaza" outside Shepherd University's McMurran Hall on German Street, Dom said. The plaza could involve construction of a pedestrian bridge over Town Run, some table and chairs and possibly some sculptures, he said.

Dom said he hopes the project can start in the fall and it will be completed in phases. It is unclear how long the project will take to complete, Dom said.

Some downtown business owners have supported the project in the past, but they worry sometimes about other issues.

Amanda Hamlin, who works at The Herb Lady on German Street, said she thinks the town also needs to concentrate on how to address the long-standing problem of parking space shortage.

Although Hamlin agrees the streetscape project will be good for tourism, she thinks parking solutions should be considered before tearing up sidewalks.

"I tend to take skeptical views more than not," Hamlin said.

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