Watertown to begin $3.6 million downtown project

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Jul. 18—WATERTOWN — City officials will host a ground-breaking ceremony at 10 a.m. Thursday at Lachenauer Plaza to commemorate the start of construction on the city's downtown streetscape project.

Improvements are planned on Court Street, Lachenauer Plaza, both the 200 blocks of Coffeen Street and Franklin Street, and the area on Washington Street that surrounds the Governor Roswell P. Flower Monument.

The project is part of the city's $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative program.

The goal of the $3.6 million project is to increase pedestrian comfort and safety and create a more walkable environment downtown, acting as a catalyst for increased commercial activity and furthering the revitalization of downtown.

Improvements include wider sidewalks, crosswalk enhancements, improved lighting and new tree plantings. The work along Court Street includes a narrower vehicular travel lane and reverse angled parking.

Plans for transformation of Lachenauer Plaza will create a more active and welcoming civic space.

The city anticipates that construction will be substantially completed in June 2023.

The city will make every effort to keep affected project areas open during construction. However, short segments of roadway and sidewalk are subject to temporary closure as project needs may warrant.

The city was awarded $1.6 million in DRI funding for the project and plans to use $1.75 million of its $22 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Other funding will come from a $250,000 grant from National Grid. The city originally planned to use $75,000 in Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program money to pay for it.

In June, Council members awarded a $3,647,704.75 contract to CCI Construction, Canastota, as the cost of the project increased again.

To pay for the additional costs, council members agreed to use $387,305 in state Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement funds to make up the difference.

Four years ago, the project's cost was estimated to be $1.645 million. In February, City Council members learned that this estimate had risen to $3.2 million. The project's total cost then jumped to an estimated $3.6 million.

The cost increases were blamed on nationwide supply chain issues, a general increase in construction costs and a shortage of available contractors during a busy construction season.

Once completed, the streetscape improvements are expected to change the character of that section of downtown for years to come.