Niles City Council approves downtown streetscape project

Published 1:32 pm Thursday, March 2, 2023

NILES — The downtown Niles streetscape will soon be receiving a facelift.

During its Monday meeting, the Niles City Council voted 7-1 to approve the bid of $936,510 from Northern Construction Services Inc. of Niles for the Downtown Sidewalk Replacement project to be funded equally with Revitalization and Placemaking grant funds and American Rescue Plan Act grant funds.

The project calls for the removal of sidewalks and planters on Front Street – from Sycamore to Main Street – and Main Street – from Front Street to 5th. The pavers and planters will be removed and replaced so that all of the sidewalks in those areas will match the appearance of the sidewalks on the southwest corner of 4th and Main Streets, outside of the Post Office Apartments. 

The project will address the deterioration of the downtown streetscape, which has led to safety concerns regarding trip hazards and instability of the ground underneath the sidewalk blocks. 

“If you walk on the sidewalks, you’re uneven and I think for the long-term good of the city for pedestrian use, we need to do something about it,” said Councilmember John DiCostanzo.

The approved motion was an amendment to the original motion, which called for AnLaan Corporation of Grand Haven to oversee construction. During public comment, former Niles mayor Mike McCauslin asked the council to choose between local contractors Northern Construction and Selge Construction instead of Grand Haven-based Anlaan, citing both a desire to support local business as well as production delays with the 13th Street project.

“That project was supposed to take three weeks and it took three months,” McCauslin said. “

“This is a sensitive project for the community and an opportunity to support local businesses in the downtown and I think going with a local contractor is certainly benefiting the community.”

Anlaan had previously worked on the 2022 13th Street project and also built the Main Street and Grant Street bridges.  According to City Administrator Ric Huff, the bridge projects were done under a different division than the division responsible for the 13th Street project.

Northern Construction was chosen because it was the lowest of the two local bids.

“The disruption that we had on 13th Street last year by this contractor’s inability to perform the work as planned necessitated a lot of city staff time to oversee the performance of that work,” said Councilmember John DiCostanzo. “I think that the experience on the project should pretty much call for their removal from that project.”

Councilmember Michael Thompson cast the lone dissenting vote, stating he wished to see grant funds used to address the city’s roads. Mayor Nick Shelton replied by saying that the council originally allocated $1 million in ARPA funds for the sidewalk project and that the RAP grant the city received – which requires a 50 percent match – frees up approximately $500,000 in ARPA funds that could be used for something else.

Ray said he believes the city is prepared after going through the previous streetscape project in 2004.

“We opened up the concrete before and found holes in the ground that weren’t supposed to be there,” he said. “We found cisterns, we found false foundation walls, we found crumbling foundation walls. Hopefully, we addressed all of those last go-around.”

The RAP program is a MEDC program geared toward rehabilitating vacant, underutilized, blighted and historic structures and the development of permanent place-based infrastructure associated with traditional downtowns, social-zones, outdoor dining and placed-based public spaces. The RAP program awards funding to eligible applicants based on one or more competitive application rounds.