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Hartselle business owners: Don't mess with historic district

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Two things are certain about Hartselle's new downtown canopies.

They will not be Auburn orange and blue nor Alabama Crimson and White.

About 30 downtown business owners came to Monday's public hearing, and if there was one consistent opinion they left with city leaders, it was this: Don't mess up Hartselle's historic district.

The property and business owners talked about everything from making downtown more handicap accessible to who would maintain the canopies. But, there was no opposition to what the council is proposing to do.

"I like what they are doing," said Patrick Pettus, who owns the Robin's Nest on Main Street.

Hartselle is using a $480,000 grant to modernize the look of downtown by replacing the more than 30-year-old canopies that are deteriorating.

The city will perform the restoration work in two phases, according to City Planner Jeremy Griffith. The first phase includes installing canopies on both sides of Main Street from Railroad to Sycamore streets. Phase two, which will require a second grant, includes business fronts on Main Street from Sycamore to Crosbie Street.

Jeff Johnson of the Department of Development said the first phase involves 35 property owners and 41 businesses.

"One of the big changes with the new canopies is that they are going to have a slanted roof," he said. "The old canopies are flat and they have been a maintenance nightmare for the city."

Johnson said the city will incorporate comments from the public hearing into the plans and submit them to the Alabama Department of Transportation and Alabama Historical Commission for approval.

"We're trying to do this in a way that the historical society will approve it," engineer John Stevens said. "We don't want to block any windows or do anything too wild so we can't get their approval."

Stevens works for Sentell Engineering, the Tuscaloosa firm that is doing to the engineering drawings for the project.

He said the state is not interested in where electrical wiring will be.

"They want to know how it's going to look historically," Stevens said. "You don't want to distract form the beauty of the building and that's what they are concerned about."

Stevens said it's possible that the project could be ready for bid by the first of the summer.

But, mostly likely, Hartselle will not start constructing the canopies until early 2008, said Terry Acuff of Community Consultants who wrote the grant application.

"We don't want to disturb business owners during the Christmas shopping season," Johnson said.

As for color, the engineering firm provided a selection of colors.

"We recommending light colors because they don't fade," Stevens said.

Johnson said they will not decide on a color until reviewing written comments.

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