The name of the game is “Second Chances.” The contestant? Nearby Scottsville, one of a slew of cities across Virginia trying to revamp its downtown area in the hope of attracting more tourists. Broken into two phases, the streetscape project is nearing the end of Phase I, which includes Valley Street and a small portion of Main Street. Still, though, Phase I is nearly a year off schedule and $200,000 over budget.
Why? Scottsville Mayor Steve Phipps says that, essentially, there weren’t enough cooks in the kitchen. “The utility company had other jobs going on, and so did the contractors. There were a couple months where nothing was going on downtown,” he says.
So far, the project’s price tag is about $921,000, says town administrator Clark Draper. The money, which came from federal grants as well as private donations, was spent burying power lines, installing storm drains and street lamps, and landscaping.
But the stalled construction left roads unpaved and uninviting. Some local businesses—like Minor’s Diner and the James River Store—closed after the streetscaping began.
|A tale of time and money: A year off schedule, the Scottsville streetscape revisions are $200,000 over budget going into Phase II.|
“It was rough, dirty, nasty,” says Mark Stevens, owner of Coleman’s Outdoors. “People aren’t going to come around if they don’t have a place to park.” Stevens considers himself one of the “lucky ones,” since he has a parking lot behind his business. But a lot weren’t so lucky. Hollis Lumpkin, whose mother, Virginia, owns Lumpkin’s Restaurant, says, “There were a lot of businesses that, after the dust settled…weren’t there.”
Phase II was recently approved, bringing in $800,000 in federal grants administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation and an extra $392,000 from Virgil Goode, who put an earmark in the Federal Highway Bill for the project.
“Federal grants provide 80 percent and then we have to match it with 20 percent,” Phipps says. “We’re one of the few towns that are working to complete the project. Many can’t raise the money privately; they can’t make the 20 percent match.” The East Main Street project is expected to cost $1.2 million, which is still not enough money to bury power lines.
“We’re not doing the extensive work on East Main Street, just visual enhancements,” Draper says.
This sounds promising to some, but most business owners still aren’t looking forward to the project’s second go-round. “[The new lamps] look nice,” Lumpkin says, “but they’re lighting vacant storefronts.”
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