Two years ago, work on eight downtown Franklin buildings stalled when a contractor was fired, and Greenwood doesn’t want to have the same problem.

Construction could begin on a $1.1 million project to upgrade the façades of 22 downtown Greenwood buildings as soon as March 1. And this week, the city will begin looking for a contractor to do the work.

That was where Franklin ran into problems. Under state rules, the city could only select certain contractors for the work who met requirements for cost and ability to complete the work as designed after receiving a grant to help pay for the work. Greenwood will have to follow the same rules because it applied for a grant and was awarded state funding to help pay for the project.

So Greenwood already has plans to look into the history and past work of the lowest bidding contracting company to ensure a similar incident won’t happen, said Ed Ferguson, Greenwood senior planner.

“We’re certainly going to try and avoid a similar incident,” Ferguson said.

The city also wants to make sure that the downtown area remains easy to walk and drive through, so officials will have signs indicating shops and restaurants are open. When construction begins, you might see scaffolding along the sidewalks to give pedestrians a safe place to walk underneath crews working. And because of the work being done on the front of the buildings along Madison and Main streets, you can expect brief lane closures. The city is going to do everything possible to make sure shoppers and visitors know downtown stores and restaurants are still open, project manager John Shell said.

The finished look will resemble early 20th century Greenwood, Shell said. The goal is to have the façade restoration at each of the 22 buildings complete by the end of this year, Shell said.

Last year, the city received a state grant of $400,000 for the downtown façade project, and the Greenwood redevelopment commission approved funding more than $500,000 of the costs for the project. Building owners will cover the remaining costs, which is almost $200,000.

Because the city is using state funding, it’s required to hire the lowest bidding contracting company. In 2013, the city of Franklin began a similar project to restore façades on eight downtown buildings, but the contractor hired by the city was fired in early 2014 because minimal work had been completed. Because of the change in contractors completing the work, facade restoration in downtown Franklin wasn’t complete until early 2015.

While the guidelines require that the city hire the lowest bidding contractor, if officials aren’t familiar with the company, they wouldn’t immediately hire them, Ferguson said.

Officials would check the contractors references by making phone calls to other cities, or companies, that have hired them for projects in the past, Ferguson said. The main goal would be determining if the contractor has experience, or a background, doing façade work, Ferguson said.

The city will be looking for companies who have done this type of work before, whether they’re the lowest bidding contractor or not, city council member Chuck Landon said.

If the city determines the lowest bidder is not fit for the work or is not qualified, the contractor can be eliminated from the bidding process, corporation counsel Krista Taggart said. The city would then have to pick the next-lowest bidding contractor, Taggart said.

In that instance, city officials would have to explain to the state why the lowest bidding contractor wasn’t chosen, Taggart said.

Officials have also made sure to include building and business owners in the design of the façade work so that the new look will include their input and opinions, Shell said. For example, at one building, plans to replace second-story windows weren’t in the architect’s designs until the owner suggested it, Shell said. That type of involvement is what the city was looking for when it first began this project, Shell said.

“We made sure architects and building owners agreed on the designs,” Shell said. “We wanted concurrence. We had a lot of building owners understand what we were trying to do. We worked with them.”

At a glance

The city of Greenwood is less than two months away from beginning construction on the facades of 22 downtown buildings. City officials will have a contractor hired by mid-February and construction could begin as soon as March 1. Here’s a few things to know about the $1.3 million project:

  • Shops and restaurants will remain open through construction, which is expected to last until the end of this year.
  • Scaffolding will be used to create safe, accessible sidewalks for pedestrians during construction.
  • Stretches of Main and Meridian streets will be closed in front of storefronts that are under construction. Cars will still be able to pass through, but should expect signs and workers directing traffic.
  • Crews will only work on one side of Main and Meridian streets at a time, which will allow traffic to pass through while the lane in front of buildings is under construction.
Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at celliot@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2719.