Business owners on East Center Street will have to wait a little longer for a decision on whether their storefront sidewalks will be widened to allow for streetside cafes and other amenities.
Over 20 signatures were included on a petition advocating for the changes, but members of the City Council’s Street Committee agreed Tuesday to seek more public input and to make sure building owners were aware of the proposal before moving forward.
The biggest issue the group had was with the possible removal of several parking spaces on both sides of Center Street.
“I really like the idea,” said Ward 3 Alderman Bobby Ferrell who serves as chairman for the committee. “But we’ve got to be very careful with how much we take.”
The proposed design includes concrete “bumpouts” which will increase the width of the nine-foot sidewalks by up to eight feet in certain spots, but would eliminate seven of 24 parking spaces.
The extra space would allow restaurants to add patio seating and would provide room for possible future installation of bike racks and benches.
The stretch of road is one of three streets on the downtown block included in an improvement project which will add tree-lined sidewalks and street lights to both sides of Center Street, the west side of College Avenue and the north side of Mountain Street.
Terry Gulley, the city’s transportation services director, said work began on Mountain Street this week, but crews will wait for a final decision on Center Street before beginning any work there.
According to Jeremy Pate, the city’s development services director, the new Center Street plan could add as much as $44,000 to the cost of the project which is being partially funding using $60,000 provided by developers of the failed Renaissance Tower hotel and condominium project as a guarantee for required improvements to bring the area up to code with regard to trees, sidewalks and landscaping.
Mike Johnson, who lives near Center Street and is the University of Arkansas’ associate vice chancellor for facilities, said whatever plan the city goes with would be a welcome one.
“It’s the piece of the square that hasn’t been done and it’s the main entrance,” Johnson said. “It’ll be great to see it all improved.”
Committee members agreed to ask city officials to schedule a public meeting to discuss the proposal. We’ll post more information on that as soon as we have it.