2017-10-26 / Front Page

Beautification of ragged entry will begin with demolition Mon.

The beautification of perhaps the least attractive approach to The Square in downtown Washington is about to get started with the transformation of a two-block stretch on the south side of Robert Toombs Avenue from Pope Street to Allison Street.

Thanks to a relatively small $32,000 Roadside Enhancement and Beautification Council (REBC) grant, the City of Washington and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) will oversee the project designed to improve the area’s appearance and functionality. The project will encompass the sidewalks and right-of-way by the Wilkes Publishing building, the First Baptist Church annex “The Ark,” the adjacent church parking area, and the entrances to China Restaurant and the Red Rabbit convenience store.

The grant money will pay for the soil, trees, and other plantings while the City of Washington’s “match” will be “in-kind” as it provides the demolition and concrete work, according to Main Street Director Elizabeth Elliott. “We didn’t get quite as much as our grant application asked for,” she said, “because the DOT wouldn’t fund the removal of existing hardscape, just purely plantings and soil. But the city workers can probably remove the old sidewalks so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

That demolition is expected to begin next Monday, October 30.

The City of Washington’s application for the grant points out that the area presents a poor face on an entry to the city, saying the existing area “is currently covered by a mixture of asphalt and concrete, which is in poor condition. The site’s location serves as a visual entry into the City of Washington’s downtown district.”

Preliminary plans called for the south side of West Robert Toombs to gain a two-foot grass strip, a four-foot strip of plants and small trees, and new five-foot-wide sidewalks. This would help the “roadside character” match the opposite side of the street, which boasts landscaped historic homes and a church.

“Both historic properties across the road have lush roadside vegetation, curb, and sidewalk,” the city’s application said. “The project area does not match its surroundings; lacking vegetation, curb, or sidewalk.”

That final details of the demolition, concrete work, and planting are still being worked out by City of Washington officials who have been in planning meetings this week.

“Depending on the cost,” City Administrator Sherri Bailey said, “we have contacted a company that can come in and cut the asphalt, and then our City Street Department headed by Bobby Mills will take care of the demo work.” If that cost is too high, the city will rent the necessary equipment to do the work on its own.

Unfortunately, the city did not receive any bids on the landscaping portion of the project so the question remains as to whether the city will handle that or reach out to landscaping companies individually.

As meetings and planning continue, those details should be ironed out by the end of this week, allowing the work to commence.

“Citizens will start seeing some progress in that area of town over the next few weeks,” Bailey said.

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