Downtown Harlem will soon look a little different.
City officials say it's a change they're eager to see, one that will be funded by a $300,000 Georgia Department of Transportation enhancement grant matched by $60,000 in city funds.
"Thank God," Harlem Mayor Scott Dean said after receiving a notice from DOT to proceed with the downtown improvement project.
"Hallelujah," City Engineer John McClellan, of G. Ben Turnipseed Engineers, said of the prospect of breaking ground on the project that he has worked on since the city was awarded the grant in early 2003.
The improvements to Louisville Road will go from Forrest Street to Church Street and will include adding an overlay material to preserve sidewalks and adding trash cans, benches, trees and shrubs.
Curbside parking was removed, widening the road enough to accommodate tractor trailers, and was replaced with a paved lot across from the Harlem Department of Public Safety.
The city solicited bids but received none as of an April 20 deadline, so bids will be solicited for another 30 days, Dean said. Once a bid is approved, McClellan said, it will take another 60 days before work can begin.
The city was awarded a second Georgia DOT enhancement grant for $700,000 in January for the second phase of downtown revitalization. Funds for the second phase, matched by $140,000 in city funds, will be used to update the look of the sidewalks and streets along nearly a mile of U.S. Highway 78/278, also called Milledgeville Road.
The second part of the project will match the first part. The second phase is only in the beginning of the design phase, McClellan said, adding there is not yet an estimated time for that project to begin.
"They (residents) are going to be really pleased ...," McClellan said of the proposed outcome of the projects. "It's to enhance the downtown looks and breathe some life of economy back into it."
Dean said the project's look will stretch farther than the downtown area.
Three decorative iron stop signs/street signs matching the ones to be used in the downtown area have already been purchased for $600 each and donated for areas not affected by the downtown revitalization projects.
Gillebeau Iron donated one for Verdery Street at Louisville Road; Renee Meyer Dean purchased one for the corner of North Hicks and North Hatcher streets; and Tim and Kim Farr purchased a third for the intersection of North Hicks and West Boundary streets.
The city has applied for a $25,000 Department of Community Affairs grant to replace many city signs with the new iron ones.
"That's going to be the model for not only the streetscape, but all the new subdivisions. It's going to be nice," Dean said.
"That's part of our new rules. We're mandating that they put in those signs so that the folks who move in will feel like they are part of downtown whether they are downtown or not."
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