To make way for the downtown revitalization project, construction crews hauled off a 20-foot-tall elm tree last week, leaving some downtown tenants puzzled.
The tree once shaded the corner of Avenue D and Fourth Street in front of the Municipal Court.
The $5.8 million revitalization project, which got under way a month ago, will include new sidewalks, crosswalks, streets and lighting in the area between Avenue D and Avenue C from Fourth Street to Eighth Street.
Engineers have said an important feature of the project is the new landscaping, which will make downtown more environmentally friendly.
Ray and Rebecca Crump watched the tree demolition from the main window of their trophy store, Designer Awards, across the street from the court building.
“It’s sort of weird. I thought we were just going to plant trees, not take them down,” Ray Crump said. “Somebody said that baby’s gotta go.”
The Crumps generally welcomed the downtown revitalization effort and the prospect of greener downtown streets, but they didn’t miss the irony of knocking down a tree to achieve it.
“It wasn’t in anybody’s way,” Ray Crump said. “I’m glad to see that the city has finally said that downtown is worth sprucing up.”
Crews have finished demolishing the sidewalks and road structures on the south side of Avenue D and are beginning to place underground utilities, such as electrical conduits and storm drains.
The tree’s roots apparently stood in the proposed path of a new storm drain, David Neuman, the project manager, said.
“Like most things, it could be worked around, but the city ultimately has the call on that,” said Neuman, who works for Walker Partners, the contractor hired by the city.
Calls to the city of Killeen were not returned on Friday.
Neuman said that if the tree was kept in place, it might not have been able to survive all of the new construction.
“You may end up killing the tree in a few years anyway,” Neuman said.
No red lights
According to the plans, residents can expect crape myrtles, yaupons, junipers and other colorful plants to be lining the blocks of downtown in the future.
Also in the plans for the new downtown, traffic lights will be replaced with four-way stop signs.
“There is really not enough traffic, and the hope is that some of the work will encourage slower traffic and that will encourage more pedestrian traffic,” Neuman said.
The estimated completion date for the downtown phase of the project is in the spring of 2014.
The second phase, which has not begun, includes a 10-foot wide concrete path that will connect the Andy K. Wells Hike and Bike Trail from its current terminus, at W.S. Young Drive, to 10th Street downtown.
Contractors hope to complete the second phase before 2015.