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Council approves waterfront project

By Evan Belanger 340-2442

Decatur will pay up to $70,000 toward a 15-year-old project to attract private development to the city's waterfront district.

During its meeting Monday, the City Council voted unanimously in favor of a measure to partner with the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce and local businessman William "Britt" Sexton in a project to add 21 parking spaces to Market Street near Rhodes Ferry Park.

At a total estimated cost of $130,000, the project will also upgrade a portion of the existing sidewalk and bike trail, add a brick-paved median and eliminate a confusing intersection.

Sexton said work could start in late December or early January.

The road work marks the third phase of the Chamber of Commerce's Riverwalk Project, which is designed to stimulate good business growth along the river and help Decatur residents reclaim the waterfront area, which was formerly dominated by heavy industry.

Business has been booming along Market Street in recent years since Sexton moved his investment company there and took a lead roll in its development.

Today, the property that formerly hosted a warehouse district with environmental issues is a bustling business area with its own restaurant.

Sexton said the extra parking will benefit the businesses already there and could help foster additional development.

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

Stage IV of the Riverwalk Project will include a pedestrian path from the Rhodes Ferry Park observation deck to the boat slips below. Chamber of Commerce President John Seymour said there are also plans to add a stage at Founders Park near the Old State Bank building as part of the project.

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