(Photo by Jill Bock, Staff)
SIKESTON -- After years of planning and efforts, improvements to the downtown area are finally being made.
"The Historic Midtown Development Group is just thrilled that it has begun," said Melissa Leible, design committee chairman for HMDG. "A lot of years of planning went into this; we've been working on this a long time."
The improvements, which are to include sidewalks, crosswalks, period lighting, benches, trash receptacles and landscaping, are being funded with Federal Surface Transportation Program money made available through a transportation enhancement grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation.
HMDG first tried for a transportation enhancement grant in 2006 but failed to secure the funding in that round of grants. Instead of giving up, HMDG officials immediately sought out specific advice on how to successfully apply for the funding.
Jim Bucher of the HMDG said they owe their successful application in 2007 to Steve Duke, executive director of the Bootheel Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission at Dexter.
"He came and helped us," Bucher said. "We got back on the right track then."
Work began Monday with a sidewalk starting at Scott Street running between the Depot and the new parking spaces along with 12-foot wide concrete crosswalks.
"What we wanted to do is start on a place where there is less traffic, less impact on the merchants, while we get everybody in sync with each other-- the contractor and the BMU and the city," said Steve Lee, street superintendent for the city.
Lee said he expects this part of the project to take 10-14 days.
"Next will be along the north side of Front Street," Lee said. This work will include the sidewalk which starts at Scott, goes in front Craftmasters' the whole length of that block and crosses New Madrid Street with a crosswalk. Crosswalks will also be built for the north-south crossings.
"From there we'll go ahead and continue east in front of Falkoff's and White Elephant along Front Street to Kingshighway," Lee said.
Sidewalk improvements will then be made along Kingshighway north to North Street next to the library.
Once the sidewalks and crosswalks are finished, "then the historic lighting will be installed," Lee said. "Then there will be landscaping, trash receptacles and benches installed along that route."
Lee said the entire project should take about two months.
"It's been a long haul but it's great -- we'll finally see some results and it will look very nice, said Kathy Medley, an HMDG board member. "I think everybody will be very proud."
"It's fantastic to see them breaking ground and to know the lights are on order," said Marcia Witt, HMDG design committee member. "If everything goes as planned, the period lighting and Christmas decorations will all be up before the Downtown Christmas Open House so we are very excited."
"This is all part a big plan to revitalize downtown Sikeston with historic preservation and economic development strategies. There's a lot going on and more is yet to come," Leible said. "It is really great for the community. We just hope everybody is as excited as we are."