Every time that Salem native Jaime Smith has walked down Main Street over the last several weeks, the same thought has always crossed her mind, “I wonder when all of this construction will be done?”
According to Department of Community Development City Planner Benjamin Tripp, construction began last September and will conclude this spring, weather dependent.
In addition to the brick sidewalks, new historic light poles, landscaping and overhead festival lighting, the city will also be adding left turn lanes at the intersections downtown to help with the flow of traffic.
“Most of the funding for the renovation project was awarded several years ago. The phase currently under construction cost approximately $900,000 and is a mix of Transportation Alternatives and Community Development Block Grant funding. The previous phase on College Avenue cost approximately $1,400,000 and was a Revenue Sharing Program Project,” said Tripp.
He added, “The section of streetscape between Thompson Memorial Drive and Market Street was awarded $3,629,869 in Smartscale funding, which has no local share. Two additional phases are funded through VDOT’s Revenue Sharing Program having been awarded around a million dollars each as well. The phase currently under construction also directly supports roughly 15 construction jobs.”
The definitive center of the city’s small business scene, Salem’s Main Street contains more than a dozen businesses ranging from craft stores to restaurants and is considered the heart of the community.
“It carries our identity, the story of who we are. The streetscape project is about taking control of that story. Salem is an old and historic place, and it deserves a downtown that is worthy of our place in the region,” Tripp said. “These streetscape improvements will help make Downtown Salem a more desirable business location, more of a regional destination and ensure that it has a bright future.”
The Streetscape project is made up of several phases, and construction will continue over several years before the project is officially complete. “The plan also reorganizes the on-street parking in a more efficient manner, allowing us to add the bump-outs for restaurants without losing parking, and in most cases adding to the number of public parking spaces,” Tripp said.
The upgrades being made downtown is expected to benefit Salem residents for years to come. Smith, like many others, is relieved that an end date is finally in sight. “I can’t wait until everything is done. My family and I will definitively be spending more time in the downtown area,” she said.
More information can be found at salemva.gov.