Union Street construction continues. ( John Noble / WOUB News)

Council Approves Sidewalk Enhancements For West Union

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The new layout of West Union Street is on the way after Athens City Council passed an ordinance Monday to fund the project.

The council suspended the rules to speed up the process of approval of $75,000 in appropriations for expanded outdoor space and a narrowed two-lane road in front of businesses on West Union Street. Council adopted the ordinance on second reading rather than waiting for a third reading due to Monday’s meeting being the last before a summer break.

“I’m pleased,” said Mayor Steve Patterson, who first introduced the idea to the council and business owners. “It’s time to start looking at enhancing the uptown area.”

Under the plan, the West Union Street corridor will now have widened sidewalks to fit benches, planters, bike racks and other landscaping, and two narrowed lanes of traffic to accomodate parking on both sides of the street.

The two-lane design was a compromise from three other plans laid out during a May public forum with business owners. Other plans for the street included only one lane of traffic and less parking, which business owners told city officials would not work for their delivery and entertainment-booking needs.

The next steps in the planning process for the road include drawing up official design plans and establishing a timeline that coincides with completion of the buildings being rebuilt on the street. Patterson said the final drawings will be done by BDT Architects, who were contracted by the city to do the original drawings when then plan was first introduced.

Andy Stone, director of the city’s Public Works and Engineering department, will also be meeting with contractors at the West Union sites to set up plans to update sewer systems and repair sidewalks while the repairs to the buildings are taking place.

Stone said in a previous meeting of the city council that he planned to keep as much to the current construction timeline as possible in completing the sidewalk enhancement project. He also said the storm sewer and curb improvements that are necessary will happen with money already appropriated into the Public Works budget and can be done “relatively rapidly,” with completion slated for July.

The city is also looking into getting a ParkMobile kiosk for the spaces on the street, which will allow customers to pay on the street and through a smartphone application already used in the city and on Ohio University’s campus.

With approval of the West Union project, Patterson is looking forward to future gathering spaces in the uptown area.

“This is a template I plan to use moving forward,” he said.