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Scope of work detailed for downtown project

By Michael Butler

The conversations on improvements in the downtown district have carried on for decades. It appears that the most extensive work, since some of the buildings were built in the early 1900s, is about to come to fruition.

The $2.4 million phase one portion will begin along Sistrunk and James Streets in the next month or so.

"It's been a long time in the making," said Jeff Harrison, branch manager of CDG Engineers and Associates. "The city has been working very hard trying to find proper funding. About four years ago, the city secured some funding from the Department of Transportation through their TAP Program to be able to do the improvements downtown.

"We're calling it a streetscape project. We're redoing the sidewalks, putting in new lighting and repaving the streets once it's all complete. Right now, we're trying to get the utilities relocated."

Some of the power lines will go underground.

"Water and sewer have been underground for close to a century now. It's undersized. Since we're redoing the sidewalks, we're taking care of the underground infrastructure."

Once the infrastructure work is around the halfway point to completion, the above ground, streetscape projects will be bid on, Harrison said.

"You're looking about four to five months to get all of the utilities relocated. You're probably looking at the streetscape work to start in the fall."

Harrison expects the job to be finished in about a year's span.

"The last thing we want to do is cause any issue for the existing retail businesses. Part of the contract is to make sure that each individual property has access 24/7 in their stores. It's going to be almost like a wooden sidewalk that will be placed from the roadway to their facility while the work is in front of their business."

One of the main jobs to come in the near future is the demolition of the Hotel Talisi, which served as the anchor to the downtown district from 1928 until it was damaged by a fire in 2009 and closed its doors.

"We're going to try to tie the demolition of the Hotel Talisi at the same time," Harrison added. " You're limiting the times you're going to have disruption."

Tallassee City Councilman Bill Godwin spoke of potential reuses for the property.

"We've talked about different things," Godwin said. "The first thing is to get it cleaned up. It is city property. A parking deck has been mentioned. We don't know. If an investor came in and wanted to put a hotel and restaurant, we're open to anything. It is a marketable piece of property."

Harrison said that the initial project could lead to more improvements.

"The Department of Transportation does not want it to be a one and done program. Their goal is to let this be phase one and spread this out to where it's a multi-phase project."