Major work is occurring on one of Mount Airy’s oldest streets that is considered a vital part of the downtown area.
“Construction is under way,” Public Works Director Jeff Boyles said of a water and sewer rehabilitation project recently launched on Market Street. It signals the beginning of various infrastructure improvements along the small, but strategically located route that runs parallel to North Main Street and connects Franklin and Oak streets near Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.
The present work has required the closing of Market Street to vehicular traffic, with pavement being dug out by heavy equipment as part of the construction upheaval. “And it will be for several weeks,” Boyles said of the closure.
In June, Steve Tate and Son Inc. of Mount Airy was awarded a $154,300 contract for the water and sewer rehabilitation work now in progress. Lines there have been in need of replacement for several years and numerous failures have occurred.
Crews are replacing about 650 feet of 8-inch clay gravity sewer line and around 450 feet of 6-inch asbestos-cement water line in Market Street from Oak to Franklin streets.
“They should be done within six weeks,” Boyles said late last week, “weather permitting.”
Other changes on tap
The utility project will be followed by a facelift of Market Street, once a thriving center of commerce but which declined over the years as business properties became blighted and vacant.
More recently, the street has undergone a rejuvenation with the addition of several new commercial enterprises, including White Elephant Beer Co. (which also has been known as Granite City Brews) and others.
Along with being one block from the heart of downtown, Market Street is near the former Spencer’s industrial property where redevelopment plans are under way, including a hotel/banquet center, upscale apartments and an entertainment complex.
Recognizing Market’s Street importance, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners decided during an annual planning retreat in February to fund various enhancements there.
This was done at the urging of the Mount Airy Appearance Commission, which last fall identified the Market Street upgrade as a priority project to present to the city board.
Conceptual plans for it include bistro tables; benches; granite curbing for islands; planters, trees and other landscaping features; asphalt resurfacing of badly worn pavement; and decorative signage;
Also, attractive lighting such as lampposts, possibly powered by unobtrusive underground lines; painted walkways; and removable bollards, which are short vertical posts used to protect exposed structures or objects from damage by moving vehicles.
Supporters have said such changes could allow Market Street to host festivals and other events.
The commissioners reviewed two different options for the facelift in February, one estimated to cost $154,800 and the other with a $274,200 price tag. The less-costly plan would involve concrete sidewalks being installed, while the more-expensive option calls for brick paver walkways.
City Manager Barbara Jones indicated Wednesday that no choice has been made on which option will be undertaken, although the board did vote unanimously to move forward with the Market Street upgrade.
The commissioners agreed to include half of the funding needed for the work in the municipal budget for the present (2016-2017) fiscal year, and the other half in the next fiscal year.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.