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franklin county times

Streetscape drawing mixed reviews

The streetscape progress in Russellville is getting mixed reviews.|Nathan Strickland/FCT

Traffic lights are up and running and phase one has pretty much been signed off on, but phase two of the Russellville downtown streetscape project has caused some mixed feelings among business owners and citizens who head to work downtown each day.
The top two complaints stem from the curbs, which some people believe stick out too far, and now the new greenery peninsulas that have taken away two parking spots on each block.
Brian Williams, who has been working downtown for over four years, said the greenery peninsula taking up a parking place in front of his workplace has made it difficult.
“I just think that part of the plans for downtown is unnecessary,” he said. “The sidewalk is not that big a deal, but when they took away that parking spot, it made it harder to back my truck up in front of my building at 5 a.m., trying now to avoid that peninsula, and load my truck. I see it more as a hazard than beautifying the place.
“We already have it tough as it is out on the route and now we have this to deal with. We have been loading and unloading our trucks through the front door for as long as I’ve been here with no problems and now they have made it that much more difficult for us. It’s just in the way.”
Some say the peninsula at the post office, which has took away a parking spot, will more than likely become an issue on Saturday mornings, which has become one of the busiest times where people have been known to circle the building waiting for someone to pull out of a parking spot.
Brenda Fretwell, owner of “This and That Flea Market” on the corner of Jackson and Lawrence street said it is great that city officials have taken an interest in upgrading downtown, but wishes they would have paid a little more attention to detail before approving the renovation.
“I’m happy to see that they are fixing downtown because I believe it really needed it,” she said.
“But when I sit here and watch an 18-wheeler try to turn left and go down through town, the main strip better be empty of cars because he has to take a wide turn with his truck out in the middle of the road to miss that corner curb that I believe sticks out way too far.”
Bill Thompson, who owns multiple downtown buildings, said he has mixed feelings about the project, but admits that it all depends on how you look at it.
“The downtown area has been neglected for so long and I’m really happy about what this mayor and city council has done as far as their commitment to clean it up and make it look nice,” he said.
“I’ve heard people talk about these peninsulas being put in front of the buildings here, but if you look at it from a different angle, like since a car can no longer sit there, people who pass by may be able to see the front of the business better and it might actually help. My only concern is that whatever shrubbery is going to be put there must be maintained.”
Willodean Davis, who owns Davis Realty, said she wished that planners had considered landscaping plans from back in the old days.
“Instead of bringing out the corners and putting these peninsulas in the parking places, I wish they would have put something down the middle of the street like it was back in the 1950s and 1960s minus the big statue in the middle of town,” she said.
“I would have also liked to have seen the streets blacktopped and more stop signs put up, especially on the intersection where Jackson and Franklin both meet. I just wanted Russellville to stand out a little more instead of copying everyone else like Tuscumbia, Florence and other cities north of us.”
Russellville Mayor Troy Oliver said people should just give it a chance.
“If we hadn’t of seized this opportunity and got funded, the downtown area would have continued to deteriorate,” he said.
“The streetscape project is for the overall benefit of the city. I’m not an engineer so I can’t say that everything is going to be completely perfect. There have been multiple agencies that have played a hand in this project and I just want everyone to wait until the project is finished before weighing in their opinions. I’d just like for everyone to at least give it a chance. If they want it changed then they will need to get a petition signed and present it to the city council.”
Oliver said the Russellville Cultura Garden Club would be in charge of the greenery that is going to be placed inside the peninsulas once phase two is complete.
Oliver said everything except for the last block at the end of town from Limestone to Cotaco Street should be completely finished in time to begin the setup process for the 30th annual Watermelon Festival.
Oliver said this year vendors will be able to get their power from the lamp posts and the unfinished block should in no way hinder the festivities of the event.

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