During last Thursday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session, Croy Landscape Architect Brad Stringer gave an update on the sidewalk project, the first presented since early 2022. The plans include the four blocks around the outside of the square and Main Avenue South from Market to Campbell streets in front of Norman Furniture. If the budget allows, the southeast side of Main Avenue in front of Sissy’s Antiques will be included in the project since the survey work has already been done on that section.
When the Fayetteville Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a $5.1 million bond issue in November 2020, $1.25 million was allocated for sidewalks around the downtown square, of which 10% was set aside for engineering costs. The project was part of the Downtown Master Plan developed by The Walker Collaborative, located in Nashville. Huntsville, Alabama-based Croy Engineering, LLC, was hired to develop engineering and landscape architecture aspects for the sidewalk project.
A special called joint work session of Public Works and IT/Planning committees in March 2021 was held to discuss the scope and expectations of the sidewalks project. Croy Engineering asked the board to give the city’s most important issues to address with the project, and what elements the city wanted to introduce into the streetscape and if other improvements off the square would be included.
A public hearing was held so business and building owners around the square could ask questions and learn how the project would impact their businesses financially and during construction. After more than half of the design had been completed, Croy began compiling cost estimates. Later, BOMA was given cost estimates shy of $1 million.
Stringer said some areas of the sidewalks will have two levels. The first to allow easy access from where a vehicle is parked to the first level and the second level would access building entrances. He said there are big drop-offs in front of Norman Furniture from the pavement to the asphalt level – anywhere from a foot to 50 inches of curb height - that people have to navigate. Plans are to come in at curb height with a sidewalk that will be five-feet wide to allow pedestrian to move between vehicles to get to the next level, which will be level with storefronts. “Some of this will vary in height from a difference of even grade with a seat wall separation to as much as 30-32 inches as far as height change between some of the areas,” Stringer said. He said the seat wall is pretty much standard line between the two areas and its purpose is twofold. One is to get the separation but to allow for seating areas for downtown, “that will essentially be permanent seating. Other areas will have tables and stools installed,” Stringer said.
He said the elevation of some areas of the seat wall won’t look as though there is a change, “but when you look at it and we are trying to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there will be grade changes from one street to the other or on one end of the block to the other,” Stringer said. Two areas will require guardrails to meet ADA and codes guidelines. Updated project plans show fewer guardrails than previously proposed. He said that gives cleaner lines around the square and doesn’t block storefronts. By reworking the seat walls, most of the guardrails weren’t necessary. That cost was backed out of the budget.
Niches with bar-like tables and stools are planned for Market Street. “This allows people to sit for a while, but not spend hours there,” Stringer said. “That’s why there won’t be benches. We want a place for people to congregate and have fun, but once they get their business done, they can move on to the next thing.”
He said the width of the sidewalks will between 5 feet to 6 feet which provides ample room to keep people moving along the streets. “It won’t feel tight or feel like you’re in an alleyway,” he said. Seat walls will range from 14-20 inches, with 18 inches being the standard comfortable height for sitting. Seat walls will be constructed of block and brick with brick caps.
The trees on the outside of the square will be removed by Public Works. Stringer said plantings will be at a minimum and won’t be as evenly spaced as they are now. “New trees will thrive in the downtown area in regard to the soil conditions and compaction,” Stringer said. “They won’t be low and block the storefronts but will grow taller. Evergreen shrubs will be draught-resistant and low maintenance. There’s no such thing as no maintenance.” He said plantings would require a yearly trimming, with minimal care and watering. Ornamental grasses that bloom during the summer will give pops of color.
“I think we were all concerned about prices,” Alderman Jeff Alder said after the presentation. “It’s good to hear you say you think everything is within what we budgeted.”
Stringer said he will double-check the numbers and get into the specific quantities. “The last time I checked the numbers they were under budget, and nothing has been added,” he said. “You can let me know when you’re ready to start.”
“We’re ready,” Vice Mayor Danny Bryant said. “If we have a couple hundred (thousand), would we be able to add another section?” The section would be in front of Sissy’s Antiques on the southeast side of Main Avenue South.
Stringer reminded the board the cost of the planned furniture for the square is a direct purchase for the city and isn’t included in the budget. He said the construction crew could install it.
Bryant said most of the utilities don’t belong to Fayetteville Public Utilities (FPU). He said FPU only has utilities up to the water meter and up to the curb for sewer, adding, there are very few gas lines.
Utilities will have to be addressed with business and building owners which will entail meetings between them, the city and city attorney on how this is handled in the construction process.
Aimee Byrd, director of Main Street, said business owners whose building have glass fronts are concerned about breakage during sidewalk concrete removal. “They want to know what the amount of vibrations will have on the windows,” Byrd said. “They’re afraid they’ll break.”
Stringer said their concern was discussed in the first public meeting. “We will get that addressed,” he said.
He said once work on the project begins, it will take at least a year to complete.