The $1.6 million downtown redevelopment project is drawing praise from formerly critical merchants who see new sidewalks, antique-style street lamps and planter boxes giving new life to Main Street.

"Most of the merchants are very, very pleased with it," said Randy Sant, redevelopment agency director. "We really felt once that they saw it they would see it was a good thing."Up and down the street, which now has inlaid brick and saplings sprouting from iron grates, merchants say they like what they see. The new street has even encouraged merchants to fix up their store fronts, Sant said.

"We wanted to pay for the entire price in the downtown to allow merchants to invest money in their own buildings," Sant said.

Mayor Dean S. Stahle and the City Council will officially open the new street on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 5:30 p.m. by flipping the switch on $20,000 worth of new Christmas decorations.

The project, which began construction in 1986, concentrated on revitalizing Bountiful's Main Street from Fourth North to Fifth South. The redevelopment agency paid the entire cost of the project from First North and Second South. Merchants in other areas helped share the cost.

Tax-increment money and bonding help finance that project, which started with an architectural rendering in 1984.

Ruth Ann Isbell, a worker at the Wight House clothing store, said she feels the sprucing up of Main Street, which includes stylized benches, water fountains, garbage cans and even telephone booths, has helped the downtown atmosphere.

The street already has drawn fire, however, from some who have complained about the number of water fountains that line the street. Can Bountiful shoppers be that thirsty? they ask.

Barber Don Carol said that although the improvements haven't dramatically improved business, he believes they will help in the long run.

At the longtime landmark Davis County Co-op, manager Mary Lou Gustafson said the construction hurt her business but sees things improving.

"During the construction my business was cut in half. Since it has been done, it (business) is better than before."

Asked if city planners had been extravagant in the project, she said she doesn't believe they were.

She is concerned about city planners eyeing the block west of Main Street between Center Street and First South and where her store sits for new development. The redevelopment agency board, which also doubles as the City Council, has granted an exclusive 90-day contract to a group of developers known only as Town Center Associates to study development on the block.

An earlier developer, who had plans to build an office building and shopping plaza at the site, backed out of plans when financing failed.

Spencer Stark, at Stark's Jewelry, said he feels much better about the project since dirt and boards present during construction in front of his shop have been replaced by grass and brick-inlaid sidewalks.

Stark still is not satisfied with the design that has reduced the amount of angle parking space on Main Street.