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20130626 DOWNTOWN STREETSCAPE JMB 0062Over 30 business owners and community leaders crowded into the small meeting room at El Rodeo Restaurant located on South Conway Tuesday evening. Those gathered there were anxious to learn about the city’s plans for a major sidewalk improvement project designed to help revitalize Mission’s downtown district.

Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas explained, “We want to improve our downtown area all the way from 1st Street to 14th Street. It’s a $2 million budget and it’s going to give the downtown area a facelift.”

While the city had budgeted $1 million in TIRZ funds for the improvements, the project designers have indicated that they could only complete six or seven blocks with that amount of funding. So, the city is looking at options to come up with an additional $1 million to complete the 13-14 block area between 1st and 14th Streets. The options being considered include a bond issuance to borrow the funds and possible grant monies that can be applied to the project.

Juan Delgado, project manager for SpawGlass Contractors said the intent is to improve the sidewalks between 1st and 14th Street and make the area more inviting for people to walk along Conway in the downtown area.

The project will consist of improvements to the sidewalks only; no changes are planned for the roadway. A schematic drawing provided by SpawGlass Tuesday showed the improvements for a typical block, including brick pavers along the sidewalks with cantera inlays in the sidewalks at street intersections, drip irrigation, palm trees and cast stone planters in selected areas where space permits. All street intersections will be handicapped accessible.

Patrick McCauley, a designer for SSP Design, of Brownsville, said, “We’re going to be adding some brick pavers and some other elements such as benches and trash receptacles, and possibly even some planters along the sidewalks where it’s wide enough.”

He later explained that at some intersections they may be able to plant larger trees for shade, but the larger trees would not fit the restricted space where building canopies are present. The sidewalk width varies from block to block, ranging from four feet to seven feet in width.

No street pavers are attempted in the proposed design. However, the company is providing an alternate option at an unspecified additional cost to paint a brick pattern on the street pavement at some intersections. The life span for the paint is five years, McCauley said.

Ricardo Perez, executive director for the Mission Redevelopment Authority, explained that the design work is still underway, but the one block rendition displayed is what they hope to apply to all 13-14 blocks.

“We also have an option which we hope the city can fund,” Perez added. This option would be a splash pad located in the city park at the southeast corner 1st Street and Conway. The splash pad would be a water feature that would be attractive for the community coming in from the south and the youth in the neighborhood could use it for recreation, Perez said.

Another alternate option being considered is a water fountain feature at Leo Peña Placita Park located across from H-E-B.

Perez also said Luis Contreras, the director of the Mission Historical Museum, is working on a separate project to put up pictorial historical displays on some of the business buildings up and down Conway.

In addition to the city’s funding for the sidewalk improvements, Valley Metro is providing a $125,000 grant to improve the four bus stops along Conway. Perez said the city is also are working with Valley Metro to try to secure some grant funding for the project.

“We are trying to do something that everybody can be proud of,” he added.

When asked when the project construction would begin, Perez replied, “Soon.” The design work is still underway and once the design is approved the project will be put out for bids. Once construction begins, it will take five months or longer to complete the entire project, according to the SpawGlass project manager.

Meri Gomez, of Mission Furniture, asked if anything would be done with the building awnings to provide shade and to provide a more symmetrical appearance to the buildings in the downtown area. The mayor responded saying, “We have some monies for businesses that might want to get together with the city to try to do something with your businesses…. We do have some money for that purpose.”

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