ELKHART -- City officials are taking the first steps toward possibly extending the downtown streetscape to the north.
The city redevelopment commission has hired an engineering firm to begin working on developing plans to extend the street and sidewalk scheme from Jackson Boulevard to Simonton Street.
If eventually approved, construction would not begin for about two years because officials don’t want to begin another major project before downtown sewer construction is complete.
The downtown construction loosely coincides with the start of the Prairie Street overpass further to the south.
The sewer work and the bulk of the overpass construction are expected to be done by the end of 2015.
Both of those projects are getting underway this summer.
However, a public meeting to gauge interest and opinions could happen within a few weeks, according to Crystal Welsh, director of community development.
Jones Petrie Rafinski, of Elkhart, is doing the preliminary work for $25,185.
Streetscape in the immediate downtown business district involved construction of new streets, underground utilities, sidewalks, curbs, lighting and other amenities.
Extending it to the north would be simpler and would not involve reconstruction of the street or replacement of underground utilities, Welsh said.
Lane closures might be necessary, she said.
“We won’t be doing much of anything in the street itself. We won’t have complete road closures like we did on South Main streetscape,” Welsh said.
“It should be far less problematic for traffic flow.”
According to a letter from JPR to city engineer Mike Machlan, the project will be done in phases and a cost estimate would be included in the master plan document.
The preliminary work by JPR would include site evaluations, interviews with property owners and development of a preliminary master plan that will look at how best to reconstruct sidewalks and curbs along the route.
The stretch of road between Jackson and Simonton is about seven tenths of a mile and includes six four-way intersections.
The road transitions from business to residential and ends just north of Wellfield Botanic Gardens on the north end.
Welsh said the intensity of the streetscape would change as it shifts further north into a residential area where benches and trash cans would not be necessary.
The existing streetscape covered about a half mile of roadway, was divided into phases over about six years and was fraught with complaints about traffic problems and inadequate construction that, in some areas, had to be redone.
The future work will help pull together visually all of the downtown destination points that are part of what has been deemed The Gateway Mile.
The upcoming project would use tax increment finance funds from the downtown TIF district, Welsh said.