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SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2007
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Market street upgrade
Proposal intended to stimulate growth

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

Fifteen years after the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce began work on a project to attract private development to Decatur’s waterfront district, three entities are poised to add another link to the chain.

The Decatur City Council will consider Monday a measure to fund up to $70,000 toward a project adding 21 parking spaces to Market Street near Rhodes Ferry Park.

If approved, the measure will partner the city with the Chamber of Commerce and local businessman William “Britt” Sexton to complete the job. Estimates show it will cost about $130,000.

Included in the project are upgrades to the existing sidewalk and bike trail, the addition of a brick-paved median and the elimination of a confusing intersection.

The project is intended to stimulate growth along Market Street, where development has been booming in recent years since Sexton moved his investment business there and took a lead role in the area’s growth.

Today, the land that formerly hosted a warehouse district with environmental issues is a bustling business area with its own restaurant. But it is in short supply of parking.

The council is expected to pass the measure Monday. Sexton said city engineer Mark Petersohn has designed the improvements.

“I think it’s an excellent project,” said District 2 City Councilman David Bolding. “It’s one of those things that looks like we left it half done right now, so we really need to continue it.”

If the council passes the measure, work could begin as early as late December or early January, Sexton said.

The proposal marks the third stage of the chamber’s Riverwalk Project. Phase IV will include a pedestrian path from the Rhodes Ferry Observation Deck to the boat slips below.

Stage at park

Chamber President John Seymour said there are also plans to add a stage at Founders Park near the Old Bank Building as part of the Riverwalk project.

Sexton said all of the projects are designed to reclaim for the public Decatur’s waterfront, formerly dominated by heavy industry.

“Any time you can get people down by the water, that’s what we want to do,” he said. “We’ve got this God-given asset, and we should take advantage of it.”

For those already owning businesses by the river like Kathy Babbitt, owner of the Market Street Deli, the parking spaces will be welcome.

“Once it’s complete, I think it’s going to be a real blessing because we do have parking issues here,” she said. “There’s never enough parking.”

According to the Decatur Finance Department, the city’s contribution toward the Market Street project could be an in-kind contribution, meaning the city could supply labor and services rather than cash.

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