Design drawings for Niles streetscape project nearly complete

Published 1:50 am Thursday, January 8, 2004

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Work on the next major phase of the renovation of downtown Niles -- its streetscape -- will soon be under way.
Those working with the project are ready to show off preliminary designs and have set a public hearing for Tuesday, Jan. 20, to do that.
That hearing will be held at 10 a.m. in the offices of the Niles Downtown Development Authority on Main Street in the old Fifth Third Bank building.
Tim Batton, executive director of the Greater Niles Community Development Corp., said an advisory committee has been meeting for several months with experts from the Troyer Group, helping to come up with preliminary designs for the streetscape.
Bids for the project are expected to go out in early spring and construction should begin by May. The $900,000 project is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
The streetscape will include areas from Main to Sycamore on Front Street and Front to Fifth Street on Main Street.
Highlights of the new streetscape will include new sidewalks, planters, raised intersections and diagonal parking in two downtown blocks.
Diagonal parking is designed for one side of the street in the 100 and 400 block of Main Street. That move will mean three additional parking spaces in the 100 block and parking on one side of the street where there is none at present in the 400 block, Batton said.
Parallel parking will remain in the other blocks of Main Street.
In addition, paving bricks will be used throughout the project -- on sidewalks, in parking areas and in decorative emblems planned for raised intersections.
Raised intersections are planned for Front and Main and Main and Fifth streets, where the elevation of the street will actually be raised to the same level of the sidewalk through the use of gently sloping inclines.
Traffic calming devices are "a fundamental concept in walkable communities," Batton said.
Other traffic calming devices to be employed in the new streetscape design include the narrowing of the roadway.
Another traffic calming effort expected to be incorporated into the new downtown Niles streetscape is through the use of "bump outs," which is the portion of the sidewalk area that juts out into the intersection.
In the new streetscape design, those bump outs will come further out into the intersection than they do at present.
The new streetscape plan will include lighting, which will be similar to that installed by the city last year along Oak Street. The lighting concept will follow the dark skies initiative, which means the new lighting will not be as tall as that used in the past and will focus light downward, Croteau said.
Plans for the new streetscape also call for furniture of sorts, meaning new benches, trash receptacles, water fountains and signage.
The streetscape design has been planned in a way to "transition people from our wonderful park into our soon-to-be wonderful downtown," Ganum said. "The design elements will tie the two places together."
The furniture aspect of the streetscape plan is important because it will make shoppers and others downtown more comfortable and encourage them to linger, Croteau said.
And, because Niles' Main Street is on a hill, it provides much-needed places to rest for pedestrians walking on Main Street, she said.
Planters will be more modular, more organic, Batton said, meaning they will gently curve and will be terraced to match the grade of the hill, rather than the big, slab-style incorporated into Niles' downtown streetscape now, which was installed a little less than 25 years ago.
All pointed out the advisory committee was adamant about getting away from the linear design and hard edges that are in use downtown now.