We saw traffic detour signs go up a couple of weeks ago as the city started the Sims Park project. The section of Grand Blvd that ran through the middle of the park is now history.
Once the park upgrades end in December, we will have quite a few new features, including a new playground sitting where the road used to be, more shade for concerts in the park, kayak launching facilities, and an expanded park that goes from the river to Orange Lake.
We start this week with some new traffic detours downtown. In addition to the traffic change associated with the start of the Sims Park project, we will have several blocks of Main Street and Grand Blvd closed for a couple of weeks.
Why? The short answer is so that we can continue to flush our toilets. As mundane as it sounds, we need to complete some major sewer repairs to the line that runs right through town underneath Main Street.
In theory, this should take less than two weeks. As businesses discovered during the Adams Street stormwater project though, things can get complicated. Lets hope that the utilities under Main Street are better documented than they were under Adams.
So for the next two weeks, you will need some creative driving skills to get to downtown businesses. Some businesses, like Mezzaluna, will be accessible if you go past the “local traffic only” sign at Adams and Florida to get to the restaurant’s parking lot. The businesses on my stretch of Grand will be accessible if you turn right on Grand or into the alley from Bank. You’ll need to make a U-Turn to leave and head back out as Grand will be closed at Main.
For businesses on Main Street itself, the best bet will be to park in one of the city lots and, depending on the business, either walk to their entrance on Main or to their back entrance.
If we are successful in completing this project on schedule, downtown businesses will get a two week reprieve before the Chasco carnival starts arriving on March 15th for its nearly three week stay.
The Chasco carnival has been allowed to take up the entire Gloria Swanson lot in previous years (three quarters for rides and the remaining spaces for the carnival workers’ dually trucks) as well as closing off part of Grand and even placing a ride on the front lawn of the Incubator.
I’ve been encouraging the Chasco folks to adjust their carnival plans slightly so as to leave adequate parking for all of the new businesses that have moved into the downtown during the past year. Some of the Chasco committee members are sympathetic to the needs of downtown businesses. Some simply don’t seem to care. It will be interesting to see if reason prevails when the Chasco special event permit comes before the city council on March 3rd.
I wrote about our special events and the parking issues back in August. It is not a new issue, but it is continuing to become more acute. With the Gloria Swanson lot in particular becoming busier on a daily basis, the council is going to have to insist that the special events make some adjustments and not just continue on as if nothing has changed.
Things ARE changing. I believe they are changing for the better and we need to do what is necessary to continue to rebuild our community and make it everything it can be.
Please make a point of visiting your downtown’s businesses regularly between now and the first of April. They need your patronage more than ever as they deal with five weeks of detours and parking issues created by sewer repairs and Chasco in just a seven week period.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor
PS. Speaking of Chasco, don’t forget their volunteer meeting at 5:30pm in the city council chambers on Thursday, February 19th. I hope to see you there.