Tuesday, February 09, 1999

Hamilton sprucing up High

Downtown's main street gets upgrade

Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — This city's main thoroughfare is getting a $5.6 million face-lift that officials hope will spur additional reinvestment in downtown.

        Work on a yearlong upgrade of High Street — both under the street and above it — in the downtown core began this month with the installation of a new water line, said Mike Samoviski, Hamilton di rector of public works. Other underground projects include relocating other utilities and expanding the electrical distribution network.

        On the street itself, curbs will be replaced and expanded at cross streets, sidewalks will feature brick inlays, two small islands will be built in the center of High Street, trees and landscaping will be upgraded and new pedestrian plazas will be developed.

        As for aesthetics, dangling wires will be removed and traffic signals will be mounted on poles.

        “Basically it is an enhancement,” Mr. Samoviski said. “We'll be putting in all new landscaping, which will include trees along each side of High Street and also planter boxes.”

        A key component of the plan is improving corners at the cross streets. Sidewalks coming into High Street will jut out several feet, creating a shorter walk across High, Mr. Samoviski said.

        The upgrade will not affect traffic or on-street parking.

        “Traffic patterns will be basically the same,” he said.

        The construction is not expected to block any business from pedestrian access, and the work is to be completed in two-block segments. The length of construction is not to exceed 800 feet at any one time.

        “We've been long overdue in simply some utility upgrading,” said James McDowell, a business district planner for the city. “This is a good opportunity for us to lay new sidewalks and also provide some aesthetic treatment to our downtown.”

        Property owners have contributed about $1.2 million toward the streetscape. Other funding for the improvements includes a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant, $1.1 million from city utility funds, $2.2 million from the city's general fund, $675,000 from the Hamilton Community Foundation and a $200,000 grant from the state Issue 2 program.

        The goal is to induce people to reinvest downtown. Several old buildings along High Street are being renovated, and the Government Services Center is under construction.

        The Anthony Wayne Hotel, a landmark, is being converted into 48 apartments, and an 1866 structure will have mixed uses, Mr. McDowell said.

        Some merchants along High Street have mixed feelings about the street improvements, but they want to see the area succeed.

        Mort Goldberg, who has owned Mayor's Jewelers on High Street for 42 years, isn't sure the streetscape is going to help the aging downtown. But he wants to give it a try.

        “It's going to cost me several thousand dollars,” he said. “I'm not going to be stupid enough not to give it a shot. I hope it helps.”

        On Third Street half a block from High, Dan Schwarz has been selling jewelry since 1966. His family has had Schwarz Jewelers downtown since the 1930s. He is looking forward to the streetscape.

        “I think when it's all said and done, it'll be a focal point,” he said. “I hope that everyone will rally around it and be proud of our downtown again.”


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