Upcoming meeting on Whitewater's downtown reconstruction geared towards businesses

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Andrea Anderson
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

WHITEWATER—Business and property owners will be among those attending a public information meeting Thursday on the upcoming reconstruction of some of Whitewater's most used intersections and streets.

City Manager Cameron Clapper and Assistant City Manager Christopher McDonell will present design plans for the East Gateway project that the Whitewater City Council will vote on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

The council needs to approve the design before the city advertises for bids in February.

The project, with a $2.3 million budget, will reconstruct Milwaukee Street to Wisconsin Street to the three-way intersection with Whitewater and Main streets. Work is scheduled to begin in spring.

At Thursday's meeting, city officials will explain possible street closures for the construction zone, where equipment will be stored during the project, and where access points for businesses will be.

McDonell hopes business owners attend one of two meetings being offered so he and others can answer specific questions people may have.

“The hope is to have more one-on-one conversations,” McDonell said. “We're hoping business owners make it (and) have questions that are more specific to their business, such as access.”

Donna Henry, a Whitewater property owner and renter for more than 30 years, has plenty of questions.

“I want to see exactly what they're doing and exactly what I haven't been told,” she said.

Henry rents three properties along the construction route and is concerned about the effect construction will have on area businesses.

Two of Henry's three tenants, each in separate buildings, will be vacating their office space due to the construction plans.

The construction also will take away three parking spots in front of Henry's building at 108 W. Main St. because the sidewalk will be expanded to make a joint pedestrian and bicycle path. The loss of parking space is a main reason that tenant is leaving, Henry said.

Henry's tenant at 216 E. Main St., who is opening a thrift shop at the end of January, will be open for business because the store will be accessible via a back alley. But business still will be lost, Henry said.

“You will lose the drive-by business,” she said. “With any of these places on that stretch there will be a loss of drive-by business.

The city hopes to have open communication with businesses to keep the project's impact to a minimum.

"The city will work with businesses to put up custom signs,” McDonell said in an email.

Such signs would say if roads were open to downtown businesses in general or to a specific business.

“We plan to keep in close communication with the businesses affected throughout construction,” McDonell said.

Greg Greenwood, owner of Century 21 Affiliated Greenwood, said city officials have been good about communicating with area businesses. Still, he plans to attend one of the two information sessions.

“All owners know what is going on here,” he said.

Greenwood's real estate office is on the corner of North Jefferson and East Main streets, just before East Milwaukee Street.

“It's pretty rough right in this corner,” Greenwood said. “Trucks are always clipping off signs”

He said the reconstruction would help alleviate that.

How much the construction will affect his business is unknown because the majority of his business is generated through the Internet, and he has a parking lot.

The project is being completed to meet Wisconsin Department of Transportation standards. The last time the area was upgraded was in 1979, McDonell said.

Some of the renovations include reconstruction of underground utilities, widening of streets and sidewalks, and the addition of parkway streets, streetlights and crosswalks.

McDonell estimates the project will take six months, but he said he can't say for certain. The plan is to break the project into three stages to control where the contractor is working and to ensure the work in one section is done before moving on, he said.

The spring project is the second part of a series of projects on Milwaukee Street that began in 2012, when Milwaukee Street from Wisconsin Street to Esterly Street was torn up, widened and utilities were replaced. The remaining two projects will be completed in 2017, McDonell said.

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