After a meeting last week with city officials, architects and grant administrators, business owners on Railroad Street are happy.
"I'm satisfied," said Nether Ivery, owner of Ivery's Restaurant.
The meeting was held as a follow-up to a similar meeting in April where business owners expressed concern over a plan to revamp Railroad Street and the parking lot and median in the center of it. That plan would eliminate a significant number of spaces in the parking lot.
"After hearing your concerns, we asked (the architect) to consider methods that would not disrupt the parking on Railroad Street and he had to come back several times and look at the traffic," Mayor Kenneth Usry said, adding that the new plan only eliminates two of the current 96 parking spaces.
Railroad Street currently surrounds a parking lot centered by a median for the Depot on the south side and businesses along the north side of the street. Two new developments necessitate the layout change: A complete remodeling and restoration of the Depot through a recently acquired grant from Regional Development Center, and construction of the new city-county government center on the corner of Railroad and Greenway streets that will increase traffic.
In the new plan, Railroad Street will be a one-way street, with traffic flowing east off of Main Street toward the government center. At the intersection of Railroad and Greenway streets, traffic will be dispersed either down Greenway, straight across Railroad or across the railroad tracks to Henderson/Black streets.
"I like the one-way concept because we don't lose parking," said Frankie Galbreath, owner of It's a Southern Thing. "If we don't have parking, we don't have customers. And, if we don't have customers, we can't pay our bills."
James Story, owner of J's Wigs and Lillian's Salon, was concerned because the wheelchair access ramps were planned for further down the street, and he needed one in the immediate area of his business. Mayor Usry and City Administrator Don Powers assured Mr. Story they would address that problem.
"This is a concept, so to speak," Mr. Powers said. "Small details like that can be changed as we are working on it."
So, Mr. Story said he was satisfied and had no complaints with the layout.
New parking with 21 additional spaces is planned for Greenway Street, also. This adds to the new parking lots installed by the city last year behind businesses on the west side of Main Street.
Mayor Usry said there will be rubber stands with signs in the center of Main Street at the crosswalks, similar to the town of Washington, to alert motorists to the crosswalks. Also, a sign will be put in the island on the south entrance of downtown and another sign at the north entrance of town that will reveal "High Pedestrian Area." "We hope that helps," Mayor Usry said. "And, the completion of the by-pass hopefully will stop the big trucks from coming through downtown."
Although they were asked repeatedly, no official was able to give a time frame of when the road/parking lot project will begin or end but the consensus was after the first of the year.