One component of the city’s $1.7 million downtown facelift are barriers that would enclose the 300 and 400 blocks of Fourth Street for events such as the Biggest Block Party Ever that temporarily close the street.
But the proposal that downtown merchant Jeff Baker saw made him cringe. The owner of Baker’s Fine Gifts and Accessories contends the retractable gates would take away from the downtown’s beauty.
“I focused on them immediately, because it was so obviously glaringly bad,” Baker said. “As much as I tried, there was no interest in discussing the structures themselves.”
On Monday, Baker was pleased to learn that Kelly Wilson, director of the Indiana University Center of Art and Design-Columbus, and local architect Louis Joyner will present an alternative proposal today to Mayor Kristen Brown and City Engineer Dave Hayward.
The gates are part of the beautification plan to transform Fourth Street into a multi-functional urban street with trees, benches and energy-efficient lighting.
Brown confirmed today’s meeting, but she said any changes to the barriers would only be finalized after weeks of gathering public opinion. “And then (the change) couldn’t add to the cost, and it could not slow down the project — even by a day,” she said.
Moving the construction process along comes under Hayward’s responsibility. The Washington and Fourth street intersection is scheduled to reopen Oct. 13, and the project’s end is expected in early November.
“We’ve given them a timetable and said, ‘If you want to redesign, we’ve got to have decisions and things in place real quickly here,’” Hayward said. “So they’re coming out at the very, very late hour in the process. We’re trying to look at the options, but the
options are running out pretty quickly.”
Brown said Wilson hadn’t seen the barriers until recently, when he immediately suggested reconsidering. Wilson prefers to restrict the 300 and 400 blocks with bollards, or vertical posts, Brown said, with part of the idea behind the notion being that the lighter barriers would create more free-flowing foot traffic.
“I don’t think bollards are an option at this point,” Brown said. “There will be gates. And they will sit on the concrete foundations already designed so that doesn’t slow down the process.”
The barriers were designed by Rundell Ernstberger Associates, an Indianapolis-based landscape architecture firm. The Board of Public Works and the Redevelopment Commission approved the plans.
“We had a very public process,” Hayward said. “People saw the designs. I don’t really want to push all that aside without really considering things carefully.”
Cost of the proposed gates — which also could be used to cordon off other downtown events such as Neighborfest — was not immediately available late Monday.
Project’s latest news
City Engineer Dave Hayward said Monday the intersection of Fourth and Washington streets should be open by Oct. 13, in time for the Ethnic Expo Parade, which goes through there.
The announcement was made during the weekly Monday morning progress meetings in The Commons Chaos Lobby.
“The intersection is really the critical path at this point,” Hayward said.
The intersection needs to be filled with concrete and covered with brick before being reopened. All the while, sidewalk construction will continue.
Finishing the intersection will go somewhat independently of the sidewalks, Hayward said. “They’ve got enough of the sidewalks done that they can use a smaller crew to finish those out.”