With much talk about how a prospective public art project would fit into the downtown revitalization, city manager John Connet said that future effort would be separate from what will be Phase III.
The basic design for the Downtown Revitalization Phase III, initially approved by City Council in February 2009, includes widening of sidewalks, relocation of utility lines underground and streetscaping, all in an effort to improve the appearance of downtown and make it more inviting. Overall, the revitalization project will encompass the old jail site and extend down Vance Street to Beaman Street. It also will include all of Connesstee Street, from College Street to Vance Street, and Vance Street, from Sampson Street to Beaman.
“We will finish the design and get bids,” said Connet. “The bids would be for that project, plus making improvements to the College Street parking lot.”
Those improvements would include removing the broken concrete wall that lines College Street and replacing it with a brick wall. The lot would also be configured, “making it a little more pedestrian-friendly,” the city manager noted.
The complete project encompasses underground utilities, new sidewalks, resurfaced streets, building an enclosure for dumpsters on Connesstee Street and a retaining wall to eliminate erosion at the old jail site.
Jeff Vreugdenhil, director of Clinton-Sampson Planning and Development, said last week early estimates are around $1.5 million.
“Hopefully, in June we’ll get the bids,” said Connet. “(That)$1.5 million we estimate to be on the high side.”
Following a brief update from Vreugdenhil last week, the mayor and Council were positive about moving forward with the third phase.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and resources on this,” said Mayor Lew Starling, “and I think everybody believes we need to move forward. We’re very excited about it.”
Council members agreed.
“I think the citizens would like to see this moving on,” Councilwoman Jean Turlington said.
“We’re getting a lot of positive comments,” added Steve Stefanovich.
Connet said the city will go forward with engineering plans and get bid prices. Those bids will not include the art project, but the revitalization could be the canvas on which a future art project could be placed, the city manager pointed out.
In recent months, city officials and a local public art committee have discussed an art project that would include a freestanding colorful glass structure to be located at the College Street parking lot, with architectural and landscape elements trickling down to the Cattail Branch and the old jail site on Vance Street, then up to a small sitting park at the intersection of College and Main streets.
The total cost of the art and its implementation is $181,000.
“I think once we get the site ready, that would be a separate project,” said Connet.
The funds for that project would be collected from the private sector, the Sampson County Arts Council and nonprofit groups, with possible city money thrown in the mix.
Vreugdenhil has said the art would complement a third phase, not be a substitute for it. He called the art project a “great opportunity for the community” to have it take place in the downtown, where there has already been many renovations of businesses and the surrounding area.
Vreugdenhil said such art “goes hand in hand” with what has been done in previous revitalization phases, and what will be done as part of the third phase, but would be a complement to it.
“This is not Phase III,” he noted, “it is just a component of the Phase III project.”
Connet echoed those sentiments.
“Basically we’re priming the site, so if the public art project materializes, it can move forward,” the city manager stated.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 121, or by email at email@example.com.