The roughly $4 million renovation of downtown Bowling Green is approaching the halfway mark, on schedule and on budget.
“I think we’re on track,” City Public Works Director Greg Meredith said last week.
Since beginning work early this year, crews have mostly completed the renovation of the Heritage Trail from Circus Square Park to Capitol Alley, replaced sidewalks on College Street and Park Row and have begun renovations to Capitol and Morris alleys and building new sidewalks on State Street.
The excavation work around downtown has yielded a few surprises.
“When you have a 100-year-old downtown, you run into things buried underground that you did not know about,” Meredith said.
That includes old water lines, electric lines – some dead, some active – unmapped basements protruding under sidewalks and even coal chutes that were used decades ago by downtown establishments.
But those discoveries have not delayed a project slated to be substantially complete this year.
“It’s gone very well. We’ve been trying to give as much advance notice as possible” to area businesses and the public, Meredith said, through text message updates and at BGDowntownSquare.com.
One of the recurring messages is that “downtown remains open. We always work to make sure access to businesses is not cut off,” he said. “For the most part, businesses have been very receptive. Communication is the key.”
Area merchants agreed that the communication has been there. Libby Sheffield, owner of Permanent Paint Tattoo on State Street, watched last week as sidewalk construction took place outside her front door.
Asked how the project was going, she said with a laugh: “It depends on how long it’s going to be like this.
“Overall, it’s great if it’s going to improve aesthetics,” she said.
Her shop was on the U.S. 31-W By-Pass for 10 years before recently moving downtown, and Sheffield loves the level of activity outside her shop that being downtown provides.
J.C. Mosley and her husband also recently opened a downtown shop, Melodies and Memories, on Park Row. The renovations outside her store have been for the most part completed.
“I think it’s a lot better,” she said of the new look, adding that she has not heard too many complaints from customers about access to the store during construction.
Moving forward, Meredith said visible progress will vary even as the entire project remains on track for a November completion.
“It will speed up and slow back down based on the weather and complexity” of projects, he said.
One of the largest and most impactful projects this fall will be eliminating the interior turn lanes around each end of Fountain Square Park. That will allow the park to be squared off and crosswalks installed at each corner around the square. The added space will be used to increase the size of the park and for additional parking spaces.
During that project, “We will try to keep as much of the park open as possible,” Meredith said. “We are going to do our best to keep streets open as well.”
One part of the renovation will mostly be done next spring – planting trees and other foliage in the planters around the square.
The city is working with landscape architects to find site-specific trees for the planters that don’t grow too tall and obstruct views or interfere with overhead utility lines.
“It’s a big balancing act,” Meredith said.
The changes to downtown have been planned and discussed for several years, with numerous stakeholder and community forums leading to the designs now taking shape. A $3.9 million bid from Scott & Murphy of Bowling Green for the project was approved in October by the city commission.
– To receive text messages regarding progress on downtown renovations, text “BG” to 313131.