DALLAS -- Construction on a test area for Dallas' new downtown streetscape began this week on Mill Street.
"It'll give a new pedestrian look and feel to Mill Street," John Swanson, the city's commercial area redevelopment planner, said.
The test area will begin at the alley on the west side of Courtyard Coffeehouse and extend to Jefferson Street.
The city held a preconstruction meeting with business owners May 18 to field questions and concerns. Swanson said owners are worried that the construction will make it look as though the stores aren't open, which would hurt the downtown economy. The coffee house, movie theater, liquor store, home decor store and barber shop are some of the most highly patronized businesses in downtown, Swanson said.
Improvements include a new sidewalk with decorative paving stones, tree gradings and historic-looking sign posts.
Swanson said this area was chosen because the sidewalk was in poor shape and due to be replaced.
Construction began Tuesday, May 26, on the storm drain and catch basins and will run through May 29. Sidewalks will be open and parking along Mill Street will be disrupted.
Sidewalk and curb demolition will be June 1-5, and sidewalks and parking will be closed at times.
Depending on how quickly the concrete cures, the pavers will be installed June 8-11 or the following week. Sidewalks will be open with some parking disruptions.
Swanson said no stores will be closed during construction and wooden boards will allow customers to enter stores during normal business hours.
"We're looking forward to it being finished," Tim Grimes, owner of Dallas Liquor, said. "And we'll be open and ready to serve everyone."
However, Grimes said he is concerned that some of his more physically challenged customers will not want to try and traverse the construction zone to enter his business.
Grimes said he is willing to get through this test phase to get a taste of how the rest of the downtown streetscape will look in the future.
Swanson said this test project, using about $18,000 of urban renewal funds, is important to help navigate future problems. The kinks the city comes upon along the way will better prepare it for the big construction project in 2010 or 2011, when about 30 businesses will be affected.
More information about the streetscape project can be found on the city's Web site at www.ci.dallas.or.us. Questions and concerns can be directed to Swanson at 503-831-3572.