Thursday, April 18, 2013
Phase 1 of Coleman Boulevard Revitalization kicks-off with lane shift between Fairmont and Pherigo
By Sully Witte
Main street? Where’s that?
Well folks, it’s coming. It’ll take two years, but designers say it’s worth the construction headache.
Talk of revitalizing the Coleman Boulevard corridor is nothing new, and it and it has gotten more serious in the past five years. A revitalization master plan developed in 2008 with significant public and business input has resulted in numerous zoning and development guideline revisions that encourage mixed-use developments within a “Main Street” setting.
A major component of these previous efforts involves reconstructing Coleman Boulevard itself to create a landscaped median, on-street parking opportunities, increased travel opportunities for bicycles and pedestrians and a vibrant activity zone between the roadway and buildings fronting the street.
As such, the town is currently performing a design upgrade on the one-mile portion of Coleman Boulevard between Shem Creek and the Chuck Dawley/Ben Sawyer Boulevard intersection (at Royall Hardware). A major design element also includes a multi-lane roundabout at the Chuck Dawley/Ben Sawyer Boulevard intersection.
The speed limit will decrease along the boulevard as the project is designed to turn Coleman Boulevard into a destination rather than a pass through.
Bill Eubanks, creative director of Urban Edge Studio (part of Seamon, Whiteside & Associates), said the corridor plan approval process included public workshops but no more than 20 people showed up, Those public opportunities included a week-long charette, multiple public meetings and public hearings. The amount of public input opportunity was unprecedented, he explained.
“The master plan was to make that old Family Dollar store the catalyst for the whole project,” he said. “The main reason the first phase of the road construction is happening there is because that’s where the main building project is underway. And on-street parking is part of the draw for the boulevard to help support retail uses there.”
The Phase I road construction contract was awarded to Gulf Stream Construction, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Beach Company which is developing the apartment complex called The Boulevard.
This multi-use facility is made up of 325 apartments, 12,000 square feet of commercial space and a three-story parking garage. It is scheduled for completion in the summer. Located across the street from Brookgreen Town Center, another Beach Company project, it’s the first major step in establishing a pedestrian-friendly main street for Mount Pleasant along Coleman Boulevard, a vision born in 2006 and solidified by a 10-year plan adopted by the town in 2011.
• An eastbound lane shift is slated over the next 60 days between Fairmont and Pherigo Streets on Coleman Boulevard.
• The lane shift will utilize the center turn lane to allow for two eastbound travel lanes.
• Drivers traveling on the eastbound lane of Coleman Boulevard can access the Brookgreen Shopping Center area at the intersections of Fairmont and Pherigo.
• Area businesses will remain open to the public during normal business hours.
• Sidewalk and bike lanes will be closed on the eastbound side during construction.
Ed Barbee, Transportation Construction Liaison Officer, will be handling inquiries about the Coleman project. Most recently, Barbee was the public liaison for the Highway 17 widening project and the Johnnie Dodds Boulevard improvement project.
He said most of the work will be done at night and crews will try to maintain two lanes at all times. “But this is a construction project and things change,” he explained.
• Drivers traveling through the project’s construction zone are asked to be aware of equipment and crews working in the area at all times. Drivers are encouraged to go slow and allow additional time to reach their destinations safely.
• The public is also asked to notice traffic control signs, reductions in speed limit and message board information, and to note that all road work is dependent on the weather.
The construction will add a median, on-street parking, decorative lighting, benches and signage as a part of the overhaul. Once complete, the entire boulevard will have the same look and feel.
“We do not have a downtown and once complete, this will kind of give us an identity,” said Barbee. “That’s the positive – but we will have to deal with construction for up to two years.”
Some property and business owners along this stretch of Coleman are not happy with the master plan. Tony Page, of Page’s Okra Grill, worries that removing the center median will hinder first response vehicles.
Barbee said that the fire and police department were consulted during the design process and responded that they wouldn’t have any problems responding to emergency situations with the center raised medians.
Page said he has been told by town officials that this first phase is a test run. Mount Pleasant Town Administrator Eric DeMoura and Barbee assured the Moultrie News that the project has been approved and Phase I is not a “test run.”
Page however questioned what would be used as measurable criteria to determine if this design works.
He also questioned why a road construction project would start in the middle of an area in question. “In my opinion, it is because it would make it much easier to lease the residential units in the new Boulevard development,” he said.
But Barbee said, “Phase I of the construction along Coleman Boulevard is being done due to an opportunity for the two contractors involved to coordinate their construction to tie the common areas to be provided by The Boulevard complex into the Coleman Boulevard revitalization project,” he explained. “This is an example of government and the private sector working together to accomplish a goal that will be more cost effective to both parties.”
Eubanks, of Seamon, Whiteside & Associates, said the road design will not hinder first response vehicles. From the police chief, to the fire chief and public services officials - everyone is “totally comfortable with everything as well as the provisions. “There are places in the median where emergency vehicles can cut across the median,” he said.
Barbee explained that the fire and police departments were consulted during the design process and responded that they wouldn’t have any problems responding to emergency situations with the center raised medians.
And, as the look of the boulevard begins to improve, Page questioned whether the functionality of it would work.
“Here you have a new residential unit going in and a grocery store across the street that does $20 million in revenue a year. That could easily put another 1,000 cars a day on an already overburdened infrastructure,” he said.
According to Barbee, “the design team used sophisticated, complex simulation models to determine how traffic will flow through the areas and included these factors in the design.”
“And the Coleman Boulevard Revitalization Advisory Board (CRAB) did not want to adversely effect businesses on Coleman with the design, but I think preventing patrons from accessing them is adverse,” Page said.
But, Eubanks rebutted that, stating that more than $60 million has been invested by companies along the boulevard so far. Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union, Triangle Char Bar, Juanita Greenberg’s and Moultrie Middle School were all built within the guidelines of the plan, he said. “What more proof can anyone need?”
He added that any new construction or renovation must still get approval from the town’s Design Review Board.
In addition, “we’re coming out of a recession,” said Eubanks. “More construction probably would have happened if we wouldn’t have had a recession.”
George Brewer, property owner of Moultrie Plaza, served on the CRAB. He approves and supports entirely the initiative to make Coleman Boulevard an attractive, viable main street. “I applaud much of the plan’s components,” he said.
He referenced the mast arms and attractive plantings and the removal of power lines as positive features to the corridor.
“In fact, the allowances for the varying height and density will reflect a true main street,” he said.
He explained that while some may see the first initial tall building as an eyesore, the varying heights will begin to make sense when other buildings are constructed at taller levels. “You can’t have every building at 50 feet,” he added.
There are things other than on-street parking that need focus, Brewer said, such as storm drainage. Eubanks said drainage is addressed in the overall plan. Brewer called the existing drainage woefully inadequate. He had to personally fund a parallel storm and sewer system on his property across from Moultrie Middle School to absorb the overflow drainage from Coleman Boulevard, he said.
Barbee said the existing storm drainage system is undersized and incomplete in some areas and the new construction will improve the system and bring it up standard. “We are not increasing the area of pavement that now exist,” he added.
Brewer said the on-street parking, given the limited available right of way, forces the elimination of the center median. What is planned is a raised median, which will result in right turn in, and right turn out for most properties (except at signalized intersections). He claims this will force motorists to cut through residential areas. Eubanks maintains the plan won’t.
Barbee explained that the right in - right out scenario will help cut down on accidents. “Local motorists will continue to use neighborhoods as they always have; however, motorists visiting the area will normally remain on the main roadway,” said Barbee.
“A classic truism in commercial real estate is that if a property is a non-destination use, such as a gas station, and it is difficult to get to, that property has had a value depreciation and business reduction. This scenario will force customers to move on to an easier property to access,” Brewer said.
He said that properties on West Coleman Boulevard with intermittent medians will be more valuable because they are more accessible.
Brewer said he knows that the reduction in value is not the desired intent of town council.
And, he said, Coleman’s current configuration already forces motorists through residential areas so they can access signalized intersections. He fears what a right turn in, right turn out scenario will do.
And lastly Brewer said the ultimate insult is where the on-street parking will be implemented - on the south side of Coleman Boulevard (the Moultrie Middle School side of the street) beginning at Shem Creek and through the proposed round-about.
Brewer said there are a variety of different things wrong with the plan “in light of the reality.”
“It appears to be a rush to make Disney perfect.”
Moultrie Plaza has several egress and ingress options, but the new plan will limit those. Most motorists will enter and exit on Simmons Street primarily, he said.
For more information on the revitalization of Coleman Boulevard, visit:
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