Sealed bids are due on Jan. 12 for the budgeted $2.7 million riverfront project: tiered plaza cut into the riverbank, boat dock that won’t wash away, sidewalks linking to the downtown trail system, landscaping continuing the Town Green motif, all extending from Unity Point to the Chief John Ross Memorial Bridge. And, before the usual naysayers scream, only involving about $500,000 worth of local tax dollars given all the rest comes from four federal transportation project grants carefully hoarded for this purpose.
When this is done, the entire area will be officially unrecognizable unless one was here more than 25 years ago or has seen downtown aerial photographs dating to that time.
Not just the plaza and Town Green but The Forum, the new courthouse, Veterans Plaza, the parking deck occupy a space and place that in living memory was littered with old warehouses and factories. Even the backside of the business buildings on Broad Street, now greatly spruced up, at the time lent to the area’s appearance as being some transplanted portion of a Rust Belt city.
Not only that but the west side of the Oostanaula, now with sharp-looking Barron Stadium, Tennis Center and awaiting a new (keep fingers crossed) major hotel looked absolutely nothing like they already do now nor as neat and livable as they will appear even more in the near future.
There has been a ton of taxpayer/citizen money invested in the entire region. It’s worth it. This five-block riverfront strip is a Cinderella story. Six, actually as the library should be included. Heck, all of modernized Ridge Ferry Park should be viewed as part of this.
It’s not easy to turn an ugly duckling into a swan when it wasn’t born that way. A lot of community leaders and officials — and voters — deserve much credit that is not often enough accorded to them.