Main Street merchants happy section is complete

Business owners along the 400 block of Main Street stepped out their front doors and threw their hands up to rejoice as the fences hemming in construction came down Tuesday.

The block that was the first to get closed off when the Downtown Uplift project started Jan. 3 now is the first to reopen. Vehicle traffic was allowed back into the block Friday afternoon.

A spacious outdoor dining patio, ringed with bushes and trees in front of Rockslide Brew Pub, 401 Main St., has been a magnet for hungry patrons, an employee said Friday.

“Mother’s Day, of course, it was packed,” she said while setting up table umbrellas in advance of a lunch rush.

Construction along the three-block corridor was necessary to upgrade aging sewer and water lines. The need for the new underground utilities was most evident when the former, 55-year-old, cast-iron waterline split last fall, swamping several businesses in the 400 block.

In addition to those improvements, general contractor Sorter Construction of Grand Junction was tasked with switching out the asphalt with a more light-reflecting concrete, installing new lighting and landscaping and transforming the area into a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

An interactive water fountain at the east end of the 400 block is a couple weeks away from operation, said Kathy Dirks, marketing director for the Downtown Development Authority.

The 400, 500 and 600 blocks will segue with the updated designs installed a year earlier in the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Main Street.

With two blocks to go, Dirks said residents and business owners may be looking forward to seeing the end of years of construction in the downtown core.

“I think we’ll see a lot of people down here this summer to see the new street,” she said. “After four years of construction, people are ready to enjoy it now.”

In 2009–10, business owners and residents watched as the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Main Street underwent a transformation. Previous to that project, Colorado Avenue and Seventh Street were under construction.

The 500 and 600 blocks of Main Street are expected to be finished by the June 8 deadline, Sorter Vice President Scott Baumgardner said.

In a couple weeks, construction will begin to change reverse-angle parking to nose-in angle parking on Seventh Street, but that project isn’t expected to stall traffic, he said.

“We’re basically just changing each corner,” Baumgardner said.

Baumgardner said he was surprised that workers weren’t subjected to an onslaught of criticism for tearing up the popular downtown core. Completing the second phase in staggered segments made the project more palatable for all, he said.

“We watched phase one last year and kind of came up with that idea,” he said about completing the project in phases. “I think they’re really excited to be done,” Baumgardner said.

Construction on the two remaining blocks should be completed just in time for the downtown’s biggest event, the weekly Thursday night American National Bank Farmers Market. Its first night is June 9.



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