Downtown Mall finally gets its new lease on life

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Disappointingly, there were no “oohs” or “aahs” at the May 4 City Council meeting when Jim Tolbert made a final slideshow presentation on the rebricking project, but its unofficial slogan—“on time and under budget”—was uttered at least twice.

“When all the bills are paid,” Tolbert, director of Neighborhood Development Services, said, “we should be 10 to 15 percent under budget.” Not to mention the project met its other goal: Major construction ended within four months.

Met goals aside, the project wasn’t without surprises. Crews uncovered a mystery manhole at the Third Street crossing, and a perfectly intact telephone line to nowhere inside a wooden conduit. At the Omni, a strange bump in the concrete slab slowed the project near its end. And while those glitches have been fixed, there remains some work, like the installation of fountains, benches and planters. Also left, says City Spokesman Ric Barrick, are tree lights, which workers started installing last week. “We’ll be filling the tree canopy with white lights,” he says. “When it’s done, that’ll make a big visual impact.” No bigger impact than the Mall itself, which Councilors praised in turn at last Monday’s meeting. David Brown called the project “remarkable,” while Julian Taliaferro said he hoped some great lessons were learned during this project that would be used in the future.

“And thank you for the update about the work force opportunities that were created,” Holly Edwards added, speaking about the crew members from Barton Malow, Messer Contracting and Parham Construction, who worked rain or shine to get ’er done.

“There were roughly 60 people working at any given time,” Tolbert told Council members.  All but one of those workers, Tolbert mentioned, have already been hired for new projects or are being interviewed.

At the end of the day, er, four months, the project was a success. And, added Tolbert, “If it holds up another 30 years, we’re in great shape.”

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