SIDNEY — A well-known Sidney feature which often blends into the background (on purpose) has gracefully passed the 20-year mark: the downtown streetscape, which includes the roadway and pedestrian infrastructure features on East Poplar Street, West Main Avenue, East Court Street, and South Ohio Street in downtown Sidney.
The project, designed in 2000-2001 and constructed in 2001, has been the backdrop of countless farmer’s markets, parades, downtown events, and, more recently, the resurgence of the downtown’s redevelopment. The brick pavers, black mast-arm traffic signals, sidewalks, street configuration, and hardscape amenities have stood the test of time, welcoming residents and visitors to the downtown for two decades. The project was partially paid for by an Ohio Department of Transportation – Transportation Enhancement Grant.
Looking at the infrastructure, some might be surprised that it is 20 years old.
“Part of what makes this area so attractive is the design and construction of the different features,” said Brian Barhorst, the lead designer on the project in 2000 for Sidney-based consultant Choice One Engineering. “By having the project designed for longevity 20 years ago, the City invested in an outcome that still looks fresh and contemporary.”
Other consultants teaming with Choice One on the design were Heapy Engineering, Oaks Traffic Engineering and Freytag & Associates.
Current Sidney City Manager Andrew Bowsher agreed with Barhorst.
“The city of Sidney has a long history of doing more with less, and when it came to our downtown streetscape project, the city sought consultants and contractors who would build and enhance our court square long into the future. Its beauty is long standing and is a testament to the materials and engineers who worked on the project,” said Bowsher.
“The city of Sidney’s downtown serves as the backdrop of our main street commerce, and we are currently experiencing a renaissance of boutique shops and gastronomy. The admiration I share for this incredible area can only be experienced in the public space. The future is bright with redevelopment opportunities abound and our downtown activation project. We are working hard at adding even more charm to a city lucky to have such iconic buildings and a beautiful built environment,” he said.
The city did, indeed, invest in a project with quality and longevity with efficiency and budget in mind. The project was constructed for roughly $3.7 million in 2001-2002, which would be approximately $6.0 million in today’s dollars. And because the city invested in quality in 2001-2002, the infrastructure only requires minor, regular maintenance and slight updates as technology improves rather than a complete reconstruction that would cost at least twice as much now than it did in 2001-2002.
“The city truly invested in a quality design that produced a superior project, which was extremely well-built by S.E. Johnson Companies of Sidney,” said Barhorst. “By spending a little more on detailed design and quality materials, and by selecting a quality contractor, the city saved taxpayer dollars in present day resources. Consideration was given to create a ‘clear corridor’ in pedestrian areas, keeping trees, light posts, water valves and hydrants, and other obstacles in intentional ‘lanes’ of the sidewalks so that pedestrians and those using mobility devices do not have to weave or pivot to avoid intrusions of infrastructure in the walkway. It’s little accommodations like these, along with the pavers, decorative aspects like black-backed street signs, and general feel of the downtown, that will continue to stand the test of time without the need for additional costly improvements.”
Jim Hill, executive director of the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership, continued this sentiment.
“Due to the previous work on the streetscape and courthouse square, there was a strong foundation already in place. We can now focus on enhancing pedestrian and bicycle connections to the Great Miami River, revitalizing downtown housing, attracting new businesses, and further enhancing the environment for revitalization. The new downtown archways and alley improvements can be built on the existing streetscape,” said Hill.
Despite its 20 years of age, the downtown streetscape has many more years of life. Hill summed it up stating, “With the participation of the private sector, the flexibility of the city and county, and the involvement of our broader community, we can enact a strategic vision for the downtown that enhances economic development for our entire community.”
Barhorst agreed. “The investments the city has made in the design and construction of the downtown streetscape should last well into the next 20 years, and we at Choice One look forward to seeing what the city continues to build on its previous investment.”