By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
As part of its efforts to revitalize downtown, Killeen is expected to begin work on revamping streets, sidewalks and extending a local hiking and biking trail.
The construction, scheduled to begin next month, will include a number of major "streetscaping features" such as pavement reconstruction, light and crosswalk installation, landscaping and the relocation of some traffic signals along parts of Fourth, Eighth and Gray streets, and avenues C and D.
The project also will make the area's sidewalks more accessible for those with disabilities.
"Many of the areas and sidewalks are in disrepair," said Jill Hall, the city's senior planner and heritage preservation officer. "(The project) will help us rehabilitate those areas, and work toward a downtown with a consistent look and attractive ambiance."
The price tag for the entire project is approximately $5.1 million. The money comes from general obligation bonds passed by Killeen voters. The Texas Department of Transportation will reimburse the city for about $2.5 million of the project's total cost.
"This is just one more step in the right direction," said Hall. "It shows the city is committed to the future of downtown."
Hall said the project will extend the Andy K. Wells Hike and Bike Trail west from the south side of Nolan Creek to 28th Street. The next segment would extend the trail through Avenue G and into downtown.
Newly elected Killeen council members voted to award the contract for the ambitious project to the Fort Worth-based Fain Group, which beat four other contractors for the bid.
Hall said the work must be completed within the next two years, but hoped it would be finished sooner.
The project won't just give part of the downtown area a much anticipated face-lift, but also will help attract professionals and businesses to Killeen.
John Crutchfield, president of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, said a revitalized downtown is necessary to make the area attractive to businesses and investors.
"When you start to make things look nicer, people begin to take more pride in the area and property values go up," said Crutchfield. "When that starts to happen, people feel more secure investing in downtown."
Crutchfield said a vibrant downtown is critical in attracting the kind of workforce sought by 21st century businesses.
"We're now transforming into a knowledge-based economy, and that economy has different requirements than an industrial or agricultural economy. One of those requirements is creative and innovative people," he said. "They want unique things to see and do and where you tend to get that is in a downtown area."
In the end, Crutchfield said the project is a step in the right direction, but also acknowledged there is still work to be done when it comes to bringing the city's downtown back to life.
"It took a long time for (downtown) to get in the shape it is now, and it will take a long time to improve," he said. "This streetscaping project is a very important step forward."
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.