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Legion Street, new “Strawberry Alley” to reopen in formal ceremony

 

The City of Clarksville will host a grand-reopening of Legion Street and the new ‘Strawberry Alley’ on August 29th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The street will formally re-open less one of its new attractions: a unique $102,734 fountain. Lest you think the addition of the fountain has been discarded, think again: the custom made fountain will be installed in November.

Legion Street at night

This photo of the new "Strawberry Alley" only hints at the true glaring brightness of the new lightning on this reconstructed downtown street.

The $1.2 million price tag in the contract for the Legion Street/Strawberry Alley work included $75,000 for a fountain, $27,000 short of this one-of-a-kind fountain’s actual cost. The difference in the fountain cost plus installation expenses will be made up from a $250,000 “contigency line item” in the contract with Roy T. Goodwin. The original designated maximum price allocated for the fountain has fallen by the wayside.

The Purchasing Department received bids ranging from $38,000 to 138,000, but the rejected all of those bids, noting none of the proposed fountains were “unique” enough for Clarksville. The chosen multi-tiered Bronze and marble fountain and its statuary will “appeal to children.”

Over the last several months, Legion Street has been rebuilt, and now has wider bricked sidewalks, new landscaping, new street lighting and underground power lines the length of the street. The intent to refurbish the street is good; it fairs less well aesthetically.

The new lighting is the installation of double-lamp fixtures like the current lighting on Public Square. The double lamps line both sides of the street and are very closely spaced; to walk along the Strawberry Alley at night requires sunglasses to ease the glare. Planners used double lamp posts on both sides of the street when in fact a single lantern fixture on both sites would have sufficed. The clean line of Strawberry Alley is fragmented with the irregular placement of several of these lampposts, created a jarring, jumbled effect. Add to the mix an oversized vintage style clock that gets lost among the lamp posts.

Clarksville Online has learned that approximately ten of the new Strawberry Alley lamp posts that are “overkill” on that street may be moved to another street, but no discussion has been held on just who pays to correct that “error” in design judgment. May we assume that the “contigency” funds for this project, or an emergency “budget adjustment” will be used to correct this error in design?

The new look of the street itself is still mitigated by the deteriorating appearance of the existing buildings on this portion of the former Legion Street. Tangled wires, old electrical boxes, piping and older facades still line the street, which regardless of the new look is still a loading zone for businesses that, for customer service, open onto Franklin Street. Strawberry Alley is where many large trucks park to unload deliveries to local stores and restaurants.

The availability of handicapped parking spaces on Legion Street and Strawberry Alley also remains a question. At present, disabled patrons of Franklin and Legion Streets and Strawberry Alley have no designated parking except on the river side of City Hall. Handicapped placards can be used in any parking space, but without a designated space or two, most disabled drivers remain hard pressed to park to close to restaurants and stores they wish to use.

Composite photos of the Strawberry Alley project are just that: composite: the lighting fixtures and forthcoming fountain are not revealed, and one of the parked vehicles is shown angled the wrong way on what is now a now one way street. While a photo-shopped design plan for the street shows attractive refurbished architecture and signage, how that will achieved and at what cost to individual business owners is unclear. For a number of Franklin Street businesses, Strawberry Alley is their back door, their service entrance, their loading zone, not a user-friendly customer entrance.

Before I receive comments on what may seem to be my perpetual criticism of downtown projects, let me state (1) that I have studied urban planning and sustainable eco-friendly development for years.; (2) I have served on three “Future Search” commissions (the first for an APSU sized state college, the second for a private college, and the third for a major northeastern city) to determine their direction and strategic planning; and (3) I just plain love downtown districts and Main Street developments. A vibrant downtown is key issue in urban development. That said, I also expect to know the whole package at the beginning, ALL of the details, not just a selected few, not a piecemeal patch job of projects but an overall view.

Who is re-designing downtown? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see, for example, that there were far too many lamp posts on Strawberry Alley. What other errors, large or small, may emerge? In addressing a project like this Legion Street/Strawberry Alley makeover, the city and the developers need to address more than the kind of sidewalks they are installing; they need to address everything on the street, out loud and up front to the taxpayers and business people who are footing the bill.

Redevelopment can recharge old business, attract new business, spur tourism and bolster the economy, but it should not be parceled out piecemeal with the tax paying public footing a vague, undefined spend-as-we-go bill. Redevelopment requires a site specific plan including cost and impact statements that affect every resident, business and property owner in the specified district. That specificity comes with its “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed. No one has said what will happen to the backs of the buildings that now look more shoddy and unkempt than before the street upgrade. How much of a bill will be dumped on individual property owners to upgrade in this lagging economy? Can the city use grant funds to mitigate that impact?

The Clarksville City Council with Mayor Piper discussing CPRC claims of city administration misdeeds

It is hoped that when the re-opening is held, city officials will announced some type of “Main Street” grant to assist assist existing businesses with facade improvements and new signage on the backs of their buildings. It is also hoped that city officials at this opening will announce in painstaking detail exactly what business interests and development plans are underway and on the drawing boards to follow this $1.2 million dollar Strawberry Alley redo. Who gets to keep their buildings and businesses, and who will be bought out or “eminent domain’ed” in the interest of “redevelopment?” True above board, community friendly development has no problem in either making or disclosing the “complete” plan for any redevelopment area, including potential buyouts of existing property and the disclosure of what said properties would then be used for. Facts, in writing, can help dispel skepticism and quell mistrust.

As for Strawberry Alley, here’s the history: In the 1920’s in Downtown Clarksville, the area from Public Square to Second Street known as Strawberry Alley was widened and extended to Third Street as well as renamed Legion Street in honor of World War I veterans. Strawberry Alley had been so named in honor of Mrs. Lucinda Elder, wife of Clarksville’s first Mayor James Elder, because the street was constructed across her strawberry patch. The Clarksville City Council approved by a majority vote in August to rename the portion of the road from Public Square to Second Street as Strawberry Alley to preserve the past, and the portion from Second Street to Third Street to remain named Legion Street to continue honoring World War I veterans.

The Grand Re-Opening Celebration includes a ceremony commemorating the re-designations of Legion Street and Strawberry Alley. The official ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. and includes a wreath laying to commemorate the designation of Legion Street as a tribute to World War I veterans. The ceremony will also focus on the past, present, and future of both Legion Street and Strawberry Alley. The celebration includes live performances by Bump City, outdoor dining with area restaurants, balloons, face painting, chocolate dipped strawberries, and more. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, please call 645-7444.


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