Sulphur Springs making headway in Main Street project

Sulphur Springs – The City of Sulphur Springs is making headway in efforts to revitalize its downtown. Currently crews are working to improve the look of its Main Street, to include widened sidewalks, trees, public seating and brick roads.

Sulphur Springs City Manager Marc Maxwell says the goal is to not only improve infrastructure and business, but to provide more public venues. According to Maxwell, by widening the sidewalks and narrowing the street, the emphasis turns from traffic to pedestrians. In addition to narrow streets, the brick will help serve as what Maxwell calls a mental speed bump to slow traffic. With slower traffic, people become more comfortable, therefore more willing to more spend time there.

Currently the project is on time and under budget, according to Maxwell. However, the city is still looking to purchase bricks for Main Street, which they have received no bids for. The city will now have the opportunity to negotiate directly with brick vendors.

Main Street will also include a venue for a farmers market, several plants, and some type of interactive water feature. The city has also designated several electrical outlets along Main Street, to allow for not only lighting, but electricity for vendors during outdoor festivals and speakers for ambient music. Several magnolia trees will also line the Street.

A few months back, the Sulphur Springs City Council changed its zoning ordinance to allow alcohol to be sold downtown. Maxwell says restaurants that serve alcohol have a better chance of survival. That will also pave the way for new businesses like wineries and sports restaurants to take part in the revitalization program. Several businesses have already purchased space along Main Street in response to the city's efforts to reshape its downtown.

The city originally sought bids for its Main Street project, which came back anywhere from $700,000 to $1.3 million. Instead, they've opted to have city crew's work on the project, which is expected to cost around $433,000. The funds are being used from the city's capital improvements plan. Under the plan, funds are set aside each year to replace water mains, sewer mains and streets. A bulk of that money is going toward the Main Street project. Construction began nearly five weeks ago, with completion expected by October 1.

The Main Street project is just a part of the Downtown revitalization effort. Somewhere down the road, the city plans to reshape its Downtown Square. A major focus will be relocating parking from inside the square to the periphery. That will open up the square for more entertainment type venues such as movie nights, live music and arts gatherings. The Downtown Square will also be composed of brick streets.

The project will cost anywhere from $3.5 to 4.5 million. A bulk of those funds will come from businesses located within the city's tax increment reinvestment zone. The zone was recently adopted by the City Council. Under the plan, businesses within the downtown district would pay for public infrastructure improvements, such as water and sewer lines and roads. The money would come from incremental property taxes, and possibly sales taxes, resulting from development constructed within the zone. This method of payment prevents the city from taxing residents and/or other businesses located outside the downtown district.