A quicker path to the walkway

February 12, 2019

STERLING – The city will receive a $400,000 grant from Sterling Today, which will get the city’s stalled downtown marketplace project back on track.

During a special session Monday, the City Council unanimously approved the purchase of a large walkway covering, at a cost of $327,558, that will be put up just west of the Twin City Farmers Market at 106 Avenue A.

The city will buy the prefabricated steel structure from Holland, Michigan-based Poligon, a company that specializes in outdoor recreational structures such as amphitheaters and shelters. Because of Poligon’s high degree of specialization, the council agreed to waive the bid process for the walkway.

The council had OK’d the construction project, which will also include parking lot and other paving improvements, last August. The construction work was to begin in the fall, but the bids for some of the work far exceeded what had been budgeted, so the covered walkway order was put on hold.

The walkway structure is actually two separate pieces, and the initial plan called for buying the pieces in different phases, extending the project’s timeline. As it turned out, however, it was about $61,000 cheaper to buy the two structures and a connecting link together rather than separately.

That’s when Sterling Today stepped in to expedite the project. The economic development nonprofit’s board, at its Jan. 24 meeting, decided to give the city the grant.

“Sterling Today wanted to get this project completed all at once rather than in phases,” said Janna Groharing, the organization’s executive director. “The marketplace project is tied to our work at The Mercantile.”

Sterling Today continues to work on the interior of the historic building at 117 W. Third St., now focusing on restrooms, stairwells and utility connections. The search for tenants also continues. No one has committed to leasing space, but the number of calls is increasing, Groharing said.

Sterling Main Street also has a vested interest in the marketplace project. It will allow the Twin City Farmers Market to expand outdoors and give other events, such as the Harvest Moon Festival and Hops on the Rock, a craft beer festival, a better venue.

Safety improvements are also an important part of the riverfront project.

“There are a lot of kids at many of these events, and having the bollards there and improving the parking situation will make these activities much safer,” Groharing said.

The work on the walkway and paving upgrades will be put out for bids this month and construction should begin this spring, City Manager Scott Shumard said.

“This will complement Sterling Today’s Mercantile project, and for us, it bridges the gap between the downtown improvements we’ve been making and the riverfront,” Shumard said.

The city will receive annual $100,000 grant payments over a 4-year period. The first installment will be made this summer. The city will not dip into its general fund for any phases of the project; the money will come from the downtown tax increment financing districts.

The last phase, creating additional parking space on Second Street, and related pavement upgrades, probably won’t be done this year.

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