Riverwalk, Bridge Enhancements get Rochester Council’s OK

Improvements designed to draw pedestrians onto North Main Street from the Riverwalk along Paint Creek were approved by Rochester City Council Monday.

But due to much-higher-than-expected bids, the final project is a scaled-back version of what the Downtown Development Authority had hoped to do. Still, supporters expect it to spur foot traffic and, eventually, new economic development north of University Drive.

On a 6-1 vote (Councilwoman Kim Russell dissented), council approved an amendment to the DDA budget to cover the $698,240 construction cost. That’s within the original amount budgeted last year and far less than the $2.4 million bid generated by a more ambitious design that has since been scrapped.

Because the Main Street bridge over Paint Creek is owned by the state of Michigan, most of the improvements will be off-street. The final project includes planters on the bridge, a decorative covering on the side facing, improved stairs down to the Riverwalk, a waterfall and seating.

“We are within our budget,” said DDA board member Pierre Atallah. “”We’ve been talking about capital investments for a long time, and I think this is a wonderful capital investment for the city of Rochester.”

In addition to the high bids, the project recently became controversial because the city’s engineering consultant, HRC, submitted bills totaling $470,000 for design work. 

“We knew that we were incurring design costs, but we didn’t know it was going to reach that level,” Atallah said. City Manager Jaymes Vettraino said not all of the money has been paid, and the DDA board has asked its attorney to discuss the bill with HRC.

In order to be completed this year, the project had to be approved Monday. Main Street is scheduled for reconstruction next year and the bridge project could not be undertaken in the same year.

DDA Chairman Mike Clayman said the DDA board voted unanimously to move forward with the project.

“Number one, it enhances our pedestrian culture we have here in the city,” he said. “Number two, we meet our goal of widening our focus on simply the very core area of downtown. … That’s something the entire DDA board has spoken of for some time. …

“It is, in our consideration, the right thing to do at this point in time. We believe it’s an investment in our city and we believe it’s a good investment.”

Clayman acknowledged that the project “takes a chunk out of the fund balance.” But he said the DDA has decided to spend a larger portion of its budget–60 percent–on capital projects. The balance will be used for operations.

Russell said she hadn’t had enough time to study the project.

“I do agree with spending that 60 percent,” she said. “But you a have to understand for council, we haven’t had this debate. … I would have liked to see how are we making our community more safe, how is it opening up for business and development. … Did they look at any other projects?”

Councilman David Zemens said he was disappointed in the final design, as well as the cost. He said the city was originally promised a $400,000 bridge project that would be “Paris-like, Prague-like; beautiful bridges like you see in some European countries today. …

“Now I see less than a spectacular project,” he said. “What I don’t get is how we’ve spent $470,000 studying it.”

Great American Bake Sale coming Aug. 6

Whoopie Pies. Cupcakes, Cookies. They’re all coming to the Great American Bake Sale Saturday, Aug. 6.

“You name it we’ve got it,” said Rochester Downtown Development Director Kristie Trevarrow. “If you don’t bake, we’re also looking for people to come to the bake sale and purchase.”

Trevarrow said 200 dozen sweet treats have been pledged by volunteer bakers for Rochester’s first foray into Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. She said money raised will make its way back to the community through grants for school lunches.

The sale will be held next to the farmers market at Third and Water streets in downtown Rochester. Hours are 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

DIA offers free day for Rochester residents

On August 14, residents of the city of Rochester can visit the Detroit Institute of Arts for free, thanks to the city’s participation in the DIA’s Inside Out program.

DIA Director Graham Beal showed up at the Rochester city Council meeting Monday to thank the city for its participation. Now in its second year, the program will place 80 high-quality reproductions of pieces from the DIA’s collection in more than 40 municipalities in 2011-12. Seven pieces are currently on display in Rochester, one each at Rotary Park, the Royal Park Hotel, the Western Knitting Mill, Lytle Pharmacy, Rojo Mexican Bistro, Talulah Belle Boutique and the farmers market. Visit dia.org for a map of all the locations.

“It’s not widely known that the DIA has one of greatest collections in this country,” Beal said.  He saw a similar project in London, but at the time the cost of the reproductions was prohibitive.

“The technology was far too expensive, and that changed last year,” he said. DTE sponsored the program this year.

Rochester residents with state identification can bring three guests to get in free on Sunday, Aug. 14. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Special events that day include a performance by La Compagnie, which performs music of French and British Canada and the Appalachian and bayou regions of the US.

Also scheduled are It’s a Zoo in Here, a drop-in art workshop, and Drawing in the Galleries for Adults and Youth. Both are noon–4 p.m.



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