Surveyors plan for streetscape improvements

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Troyer Group employees Katie Niblock and civil engineer Ron Rossman make up the survey team that is working to take the downtown revitalization project in Niles one step further.
The Indiana-based company is the city's project engineering firm and has headed up the effort to remove the Kawneer aluminum storefronts on Main Street.
On Tuesday, the two workers started laying out a grid of surface and elevation coordinates downtown to locate planters, curbs, edges of buildings and doors.
Rossman said the coordinates are digitally recorded and will be used to make a model engineers and landscape architects will use when designing the downtown's new streetscape.
City officials say streetscaping will be done on Main Street and Front Street and is made possible with a combination of state loans and grants and city contributions, totalling $900,000.
Although Tuesday was a wet, cold and windy day, Rossman and Niblock didn't seem to mind working outside.
Steve Benczik, also a Troyer Group engineer, is among those involved with designing the streetscape.
He said streetscape projects typically also include paving and landscaping.
Benczik thinks the biggest challenge for his company on this project is to stay within budget, as well as ensuring downtown businesses affected by construction work stay open during the construction period.
Troyer Group engineers and city officials will have a general design meeting in two to three weeks with representatives from the Main Street Initiative board, the Downtown Development Authority, the Downtown Merchants Association, as well as business and downtown property owners.
Benczik said the meeting is held to draw up a schematic plan of the streetscape design, so that major groups who have an interest in the project will get a good idea of what the new streetscape will look like.
The schematic plan will then be sent to the Michigan Department of Transportation, who will work with the Troyer Group to coordinate the streetscape design plans.
MDOT have a vested interest in the project because they are responsible for maintaining Main Street, which is a truck route.
Benczik, who was involved with a successful streetscape project in LaPorte, Ind., a couple of years ago, said tentative plans indicate the project will go out for bids in early March next year.
He hopes construction will begin in April and that the project will be done within one construction season, which typically runs from April to November or December.
Juan Ganum, community development director, is looking forward to getting a new streetscape plan -- the current one is 20 years old.
Ganum said in addition to the streetscape, the city will also do a downtown storm sewer separation next year.
The sewer work will take place mainly on Sycamore Street and side streets, with some overlap onto Main Street, he said.
Ganum said the city is so far under budget for the renovation project.

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