Downtown Williston to See Major Changes | VideoEvan Kruegel | 7/27/2012
"We`ve all visited communities and towns where you love to be downtown, you just want to walk around and visit the shops and be in the restaurants. And we want to a community like that, and I think we can be. This is a great opportunity, right now the economy is strong and we know it`s expensive, but we think the community moving here will support something like this”, Said Mayor Ward Koeser.
Improvements above ground will include new trees, more benches, seasonal banners, lights, decorative curbs, and flower beds.
"We have an area where we need infrastructure improvements, our water and sewer lines need to be replaced, as do the streets and the sidewalks. So we think if we do this streetscape, not only will we take care of the necessary parts of having a city, but we`ll make it welcoming and a great place to visit”, Said Koeser.
The cost of the streetscape will be around 30 million dollars, but Williston Finance Commissioner Brad Bekkedahl thinks that number may sound misleading. Over 24 million dollars of that sum will go to necessary infrastructure improvements already scheduled to take place underground.
"Between 80 and 85 percent of the cost of this project Is going to be directly related to those things that have to happen already. So we looked at it and said if were going to do all this work downtown, how do we make it just a little more appealing for the public, a little more appealing for business to locate, and a little bit more appealing for business to expand and improve."
In addition to aesthetic additions, the city is considering widening the sidewalks, widening parking lanes, and reducing main St to one lane in each direction."
"Right now with the 4 lane traffic system downtown, if you open your car door in the parking lane you`re actually opening your car door into traffic and that`s a very unsafe situation”, Said Bekkedahl.
The time frame for the project is still undecided, but Mayor Koeser would like to get started within two years.
"At this particular point its at least a five year phase plan. We would probably start in 2014. Now, budget time we will look and see if we can do anything sooner, but realistically it will start in 2014, and go for at least five years."
City officials do not expect a tax increase to be necessary for the project. The city already has a fee structure in place to cover the water and sewer line replacements, and sales tax and federal aid should cover the rest of the project.
The full area of the streetscape stretches from the train depot all the way up Main St to Harmon Park, and from the Downtown area east along Broadway to University.