Paw Paw’s downtown streetscape project draws interest from community

Concept AConcept B. Concept drawings courtesy of Abonmarche, via Village of Paw Paw

Village to apply for $584,183 Community Development Block Grant to assist in rehabilitation of former Ben Franklin building

    PAW PAW - The Paw Paw Village Council Monday night attended to two projects concerning the central business district - an upcoming Michigan Avenue paving and possible sidewalk reconstruction plan and a Community Development  Block Grant to assist in the rehabilitation of 210 E. Michigan Avenue, the former Ben Franklin building.
    Council members, and an audience of about 30 business owners and citizens, began the evening early with a presentation of streetscape concepts for the three blocks of Michigan Avenue between LaGrave and Gremps streets by representatives of the Abonmarche engineering firm of Benton Harbor during a public workshop session prior to the council’s regular meeting.
    Village Manager Sarah Moyer-Cale had provided the council with background information that explained that the condition of the pavement on Michigan Avenue through downtown has deteriorated to a point requiring reconstruction of the road rather than just a pave-over. This total reconstruction offers the village the opportunity to assess the total function of the street and address other elements of the village’s Master Plan which support the street “having a better balance of service for cars, pedestrians, and bicycles.”  The road reconstruction, currently slated for 2021, will be done whether a streetscape plan is part of the project or not.
    Abonmarche president and CEO Chris Cook introduced the streetscape study. He said his firm had been hired last October to design a plan for the downtown that would bring together various civic needs... “where folks can gather... where we move folks through; it’s an easy place to be,” he said, emphasizing that the drawings presented were just concepts. “These are not final designs - not even close.
    “This (meeting) is to get an idea of what you want and give you an idea of what it costs. We want to be sure we have good accessibility and adequate parking... making this a real place people want to be.”
    Kathy Burczak, a senior landscape architect for Abonmarche, echoed Cook’s remarks. “This is very schematic,” she told the audience in pointing out the various features of the two plans presented.
    Concept A would maintain the current five traffic lanes. It includes sidewalk “bump-outs” at the corners and several spots along the street, brick edging, and consistent curb heights throughout the downtown.
    One of the elements of the current downtown sidewalk system that village officials hope to alleviate is the difference in curb heights on the north and south sides of Michigan Avenue. On the south side, there is almost no curb at all, and on the north side, there are varying two and three steps up to the sidewalk from the curb. The steps have become a safety concern.
    “They are trip hazards,” Burczak said. From her measurements and assessment of the conditions, she said that with the total road reconstruction, the two sides of the street can be made consistent, and eliminate the tiered curbing.
    “We do feel it’s a definite possibility.”
    Concept B would reduce the traffic lanes to one eastbound, one westbound, and a turn lane. “You want people to slow down going through your downtown,” Burczak said. She noted the outer lanes would be wider than a regular traffic lane, creating a shared lane for vehicles and bicycles.The overall sidewalk design of Concept B is similar to A, with wider sidewalks and bump-outs.
    Cook estimated the cost for either plan to fall between $2,755,000 and $3,370,000, and construction to take six to seven months.
    Members of the audience expressed concerns about the truck traffic that currently impacts the downtown, and questioned if semis could make clean turns around the corner bump-outs.  
    “They drive over the corners now,” one business owner noted.
    Audience members expressed interest in rerouting the truck traffic away from the downtown.
    The loss of 10 to 16 parking spaces along the three blocks, and customers having access to their front doors during construction were also concerns for the downtown business owners.
    Cook and Burczak told the council and the audience that they appreciated the opportunity to have this conversation, and that all their points will be considered as they continue to work toward a final design.
    During their regular meeting, council members unanimously adopted Reso-lution 19-08, authorizing Moyer-Cale to submit a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application in the amount of $584,183 to the Michigan Strategic Fund.  The funding will facilitate the rehabilitation of the former Ben Franklin store at 210 E. Michigan Avenue, which has been vacant for several years.
    The project proposes revitalizing the building to provide commercial/retail space on the main floor and apartments on the second floor. Another $86,000 in CDBG Loan Program funds and approximately $582,893 in private funds have also been committed to the redevelopment.

The Courier-Leader & Paw Paw Flashes

The Courier-Leader & Paw Paw Flashes
32280 E. Red Arrow Hwy. • P.O. Box 129
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 657-5080

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