Archive for Thursday, February 2, 2006

Main St. plan keys on helping businesses

February 2, 2006

City officials aren't waiting for heavy equipment to move in and traffic to come to a crawl to develop its plan to help businesses on Lansing's Main Street survive 18 months of construction.

In a presentation last week at a work session of the Lansing City Council, officials outlined a proposed "business assistance program" to undertake during the Main Street System Enhancement project.

The city's plans include everything from hiring a project liaison that would be available to answer questions and respond to concerns of business owners to an ongoing advertising campaign intended to lure customers to businesses despite the likely traffic hazards.

During a subsequent meeting of the council, on Thursday, Feb. 2, members directed Mayor Kenneth Bernard to proceed with the idea of hiring a project liaison.

"This is a very large project; it's going to be very disruptive. We need to do everything we possibly can" to help the public through the project, said John Young, the city's public works director.

Shanae Randolph, the city's director of Economic Development/Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she had contacted several cities that had dealt with major road construction projects in business districts, including Merriam, Shawnee, Lawrence and Riverside, Mo.

"Not one of the communities I contacted could tell us about a similar project that is going to have as much of an impact as ours," Randolph said.

The Main Street System Enhancement project has been on the state's drawing board since 1999 and is estimated to cost $11.3 million. Improvements include widening Main Street from Connie to Ida streets to include a center turn lane, rebuilding the bridge over 7-Mile Creek, reconstructing medians from Gilman Road to Ida Street and constructing a "reverse frontage road" north of West Mary Street to West Kansas Avenue. Construction is likely to begin in late spring and is projected to take 18 months.

Hiring of the project liaison drew the most questions from council members, some of whom asked whether the same job could be done with existing staff.

Randolph said the city of Riverside began its project thinking it could provide the service in-house and found its staff overwhelmed, then hired a consulting firm and found it too expensive, and it finally settled on hiring a project liaison on a contract basis.

"We certainly have the capability to do this; we don't have the staff members to take care of all the other things we do," Young said, noting that other public works projects would continue while the Main Street project progresses.

The liaison, he said, would be onsite and know what was happening on the project "from hour to hour."

"He would be in contact on a continual basis with the KDOT people, with the contractors' representatives, KDOT's onsite people and inspection staff and with businesses," Young said.

The liaison would be the city's point man to deal with inquiries from everyone from City Council members to the media to the public.

"If a business calls and has a problem, if a citizen calls and has a problem - with traffic or whatever it is - they know. They're already on the ground and know what the status is from hour to hour. They know who to talk to try to resolve the issue. They can explain the process, explain what the difficulties might be - just be really responsive," Young said.

In addition to the project liaison, the plan included:

¢ Using the city's resources, including Channel 2 and the city's Web site, plus newspapers, fliers and email lists to keep the public up to date on progress of the project.

¢ Relaxing enforcement of the city's sign ordinance to allow businesses to erect temporary signs during construction.

¢ Erecting "Support Your Local Business" signs and directional signs to businesses during construction.

¢ Promote in area newspapers a "Savings Program." The city would conduct an advertising campaign for participating businesses that would offer discounted merchandise during construction.

Mayor to explain program Friday

Mayor Kenneth Bernard will explain the city's proposed program to Lansing business owners at the second annual "Salads and Solutions" luncheon at noon Friday, Feb. 3, at the Lansing Community Center.

The luncheon is sponsored by the city's Economic Development/Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Past, related stories from lansingcurrent.com: Main Street tie-ups to be norm

Main Street patience urged

Condemnation process continues for Main Street holdouts

Main Street holdouts to receive checks for property easments

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