The talking is over and dirt is being moved in Bountiful's long-awaited downtown renovation project, but the effort is being met with mixed emotions by downtown merchants.
Dan Wight, owner of the Pantree clothing store, said he is glad to see something happening, ending years of frustration."We've been trying to get something happening here for 25 years," Wight said. "We couldn't even get the city to do anything about the sidewalks and finally we just did it ourselves."
Wight said it is somewhat disconcerting to be losing that new sidewalk, which was installed about seven years ago, but he said getting the rest of the improvements done will make up for the loss.
Lois Pickett, owner of Servus Drug, said that she is glad to see something happening after years of talking and empty promises. But she still has reservations about whether the improvements will have the effect city officials want to rejuvenate the downtown and attract new business development.
"I think all of us (the merchants) feel good that the city is finally doing something," said Pickett. "But many of us feel the design and narrowing of the street will be a mistake. I think there are some businesses that aren't going to make it with the reduction of parking on the street."
Pickett said she still is upset that merchants were not given a greater role in developing the plan. She said merchants were never consulted and even had difficulty getting details on the project before the city gave the plan final approval.
City officials are excited, however. Mayor Dean S. Stahle told a groundbreaking crowd that the project is like the biblical story of Abraham and Sarah, who took 90 years to conceive their first-born. Stahle said officials hope the installation of a new street, curbs, gutters, sidewalks and landscaping will spur a rejuvenation of the downtown area and that the area will once again become the focal point of commercial activity and eventually the cultural center of the city.
By using city redevelopment agency and capital improvement project money for the renovation, officials hope downtown property owners will be encouraged to use their own money to renovate buildings and improve their businesses to aid the rejuvenation effort. Redevelopment director Randy Sant said two businesses are already planning such improvements and he believes that with a little more encouragement, others will follow.
The work will focus first on the area of Main Steet between First North and Second South. This area will receive the most extensive renovation, including installation of new street lighting, brick pavers in the sidewalks and a redesign of the road itself to give it a more pedestrian-oriented flavor. The areas between Second South and Fifth South and from First North to Fourth North will receive a new street, curbs, gutters, sidewalks and landscaping, but on a lesser scale than the central area.
While Main Street will remain open to traffic during construction, on-street parking will be severely affected. Officials said it is important that the public be aware that three parking lots have been improved and made available. One is just off First North behind the Wight House and Servus Drug. A second is on the east side of Main between Lakewood Furniture and the Sherman Williams Paint store with access into the lot from Center Street. The third is between First South and Second South between the Stoker School and the businesses fronting on Main Street.
Officials said the additional parking lots actually increase available parking spaces in the downtown area.