City moves to improve Poyntz Ave.

By Burk Krohe

Poyntz Avenue will finally get the facelift it was promised. City commissioners agreed to move forward with a project to improve downtown at Tuesday’s work session.

Commissioners favored improvements along Poyntz Avenue, 4th Street and 3rd Street. They felt it was important to finally advance the project after years of delays and borrowing money from the city’s downtown fund for uses outside the district.

Initially, the proposed improvements would have come at a cost of about $3.48 million. However, Jason Hilgers, assistant city manager, said feedback from business owners in the district was to lower the price tag. Hilgers told commissioners there was also a strong sentiment that the city should cover the majority of the costs.

“There’s a perception that a lot of it is deferred maintenance,” Hilgers said.

It appears that the downtown business owners will get their wish. Commissioners agreed to move forward with a benefit district that would split a reduced $2.9 million project 95/5 between the city and the business owners. Specific improvements include: Replacing curb and gutter, replacing curbside concrete band on the sidewalks, replacing trees, new tree well curbs, irrigation and electrical, painting the existing light poles, bulb outs,  and mid-block crossings, and streetscape amenities.

The scope of the project was reduced by eliminating way finding signs and permanent holiday lighting. The city also realized that the contingency amount for the project was accounted for twice. Additionally, the city determined the city water fund could cover the cost of installing a water line under Poyntz Avenue.

The up-front impact will be lessened by putting $1 million from the city’s downtown fund toward the improvements. Hilgers said the financing for the rest of the city’s portion will come from general obligation bonds, but noted they would easily be covered by TIF B revenues. Downtown business owners will be responsible for the remaining 5 percent of the cost.

Mayor Jim Sherow said the project would be a big step toward unifying the north end, south end and downtown. “I think this is a really good approach to take,” Sherow said. “This brings together this whole idea we had from very early on.”

Gina Scroggs, executive director of Downtown Manhattan Inc., also spoke in support of the project. Scroggs said the improvements are vital to overall economic health of and vitality of downtown and the city as a whole. Scroggs also said they are essential for the safety of pedestrians downtown.

“The north end looks fantastic, the south end is amazing, now it’s time to turn your attention to the core,” Scroggs said.

Commissioner John Matta said normally he wouldn’t be in favor of a 95/5 split, but he would support the project because of the history of delays and “robbing” the downtown fund.

The city will move forward with a public hearing process to approve the project.

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