With a new idea on how to set aside millions in tax dollars, the vision for a redeveloped downtown Greenwood, including renovations for the current city hall and bike lanes on the streets, is getting closer to happening.
The city wants to add bike lanes to Main Street and Madison Avenue and widen sidewalks and roads to make old town Greenwood more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. Widened sidewalks could allow businesses to place tables and chairs outside for dining and would make the area more wheelchair-accessible, Greenwood community development services director Mark Richards said.
But the area is low on space, which is a major hangup for redevelopment, he said. The fix: Redirect traffic and make some east-west streets one way, freeing up roadway to become sidewalk space or bike lanes.
The idea isn’t new, but the path to funding it and the current discussions about how to get the work done are. City council member Ezra Hill, who represents most of the Old Town area, hopes to have a prioritized list of projects in place by the end of the year.
A plan for the Old Town area includes spending about $15.25 million on downtown infrastructure projects, such as moving utilities, paying for street and sidewalk upgrades and creating bike paths.
The projects have been discussed in the city for years, but they have now made it onto a list of what the city plans to do with money collected in an expanded eastside tax-increment financing, or TIF, district, which would include downtown. That list of projects and the TIF district expansion are up for approval at the redevelopment commission’s April 8 meeting. If the city board approves the expansion of the TIF district, then property taxes on new commercial development in the area could be used on projects downtown, such as street and sidewalk widening.
And now, officials are talking about ways to make the plan happen, but they’ll need to answer some hard questions.
To widen sidewalks and add bike lanes without demolishing buildings near the street, the city would have to eliminate road lanes, Richards said. That means the city likely would make Main Street one way between Market Plaza and Meridian Street or between Market Plaza and Washington Street near the fire station, he said. The city likely would leave an eastbound lane for emergency vehicles, he said.
The one-way section of Main Street likely would be for westbound traffic, and a one-way eastbound route would have to be developed, he said. Traffic could be diverted onto Machledt Drive and Market Plaza, but that idea for eastbound travel has its problems because Machledt and Market Plaza are prone to flooding, and the streets don’t line up neatly with busy Madison Avenue, he said.
“You’d be zigzagging through town,” Richards said.
A bike lane needs to be at least 5 feet wide, and sidewalks need at least 4 feet of clear space between a utility pole or restaurant tables and the edge of the walkway. Currently, Main Street has a width of about 30 feet from curb to curb near the Van Valer building and about 6 feet on each side for sidewalks.
Street lanes have to be a minimum of 10 feet wide, so the two existing travel lanes, center turn lane and sidewalks don’t leave space for a bike lane, he said. For now, ways to improve traffic flow and find the space for bike lanes and wider sidewalks are just ideas, he said.
Most sections of street won’t have room for both.
“Would you rather have bike lanes or wider sidewalks? There’s probably going to be some choices made, and they’re not going to be easy choices because everyone’s going to have an opinion,” Richards said.
Those decisions can’t be made, though, until the city has money to pay for the projects, he said. City officials plan to pay for the work with property taxes collected in the TIF district.