Marty Bell applies an antique finish to the cobblestone sidewalk at the corner of North Spring and West Fort streets on the downtown square Monday. The downtown renovation project is nearing an end after more than one year of work. (Staff photo by Josh Peterson)
New sidewalks, benches and street lighting are all part of the Manchester downtown renovations. Pictured is the sidewalk along West Fort Street. (Staff photo by Josh Peterson)

By Josh Peterson, editor The light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer for the Manchester downtown renovation project. All four sides of the square are finally paved and open to through traffic after weeks of difficult navigating and the finishing touches are being put on the project, which officials say should be completed in the coming weeks. “We have some cosmetic things left around doors and corners and landscaping and such … but that’s about it,” said Manchester citizen liaison Terry Dendy. It was announced in May that the project would be delayed to a September completion date because of “unforeseen circumstances.” The delay put a financial hardship on the project and some items in the original plans may be cut – such as the stamped intersection designs. “We are crunching through the budget and some numbers now but we haven’t determined what will need to be removed,” said city engineer Scott St. John. “We met with the contractor Monday to get to a dollar amount on the paving but it is hard because of how the numbers come in.” St. John said more decisions would be made within the week. As it stands, the project has repaved all four streets on the square, widened sidewalks, added decorative street lighting, benches, landscaping islands and antique cobblestone walkways. Other items will be added in the coming weeks. “We have a number of other things that are happening and have been ordered but have not come in yet. We have decorative street signs and stop-sign posts,” said St. John. “We also have landscaping items we are waiting on.” The delay in the project was a result of bad soil found during excavating. “It was in the original designs to do some excavating and grading to improve draining in front of the old People’s Bank building and in front of Danny Brandon’s tax place. We needed to do that,” said St. John. “As they got in there they found bad soils underneath. We had to undercut and remove that and it added some time and certainly cost some more money.” The bulk of the funding — $698,350 – comes from two state grants, Little Duck River Greenway extension and a surface transportation program. One phase that covers $352,000 requires a local 20 percent match that is being covered by the Manchester Tourism Committee. Other funding comes from Manchester’s yearly TDOT allotment. The state grants were approved five years ago while other funding was secured within the past two years.

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