After four years of construction dust, noise, street closures and general inconvenience, Salisbury officials celebrated the competition of the Main Street revitalization, including the reopening of the former Downtown Plaza.
The work is “one of the biggest projects in Salisbury’s history and what I believe to be the single-most and transformative work to happen in Downtown in generations,” City Administrator Julia Glanz said during a Friday ribbon-cutting event that drew a crowd of local business owners, developers and government officials.
The area that was once Salisbury’s thriving business and retail center began to die out as new shopping centers and malls were built on the outskirts of town after World War II, and in spite of efforts, it never made a comeback.
But Glanz pointed to two new women’s clothing boutiques, a yoga studio, and busy restaurants as signs that Main Street is beginning to turn the corner.
Glanz said she often thinks of a black and white photo from the 1940s of a once-busy Main Street as the way she wants it to look now.
“When this part of Salisbury was dormant, that picture represented what we all wanted to go back to, and here we are – we’re back, baby,” she said.
The makeover project started in 2016 when City Council members approved a $4.6 million contract and broke ground for the work which includes the replacement of 100-year-old water and sewer mains, installation of high-speed Internet lines and esthetic improvements above ground.
When added altogether, the construction phases cost more than $10 million.
In spite of a months-long delay at the beginning to clean up contaminated soil in the block between Route 13 and Baptist Street, the project finished under budget with no change orders, said Amanda Pollack, the city’s Director of Infrastructure and Development. “That’s unheard of,” she said.
The work also finished ahead of schedule, Glanz said.
The project included many aesthetic improvements along the street such as brick pavers, new landscaping, streetlights, benches and trash cans, as well as safety features for pedestrians. City officials also upgraded 100-year-old utilities under the street level and added broadband internet lines to serve Downtown businesses and government offices.
Work moved block by block from Route 13 to Mill Street. The final section on what was once known as the Downtown Plaza reopened to traffic in the past few months.
The Plaza -- the section between Mill and Division streets -- was converted to a pedestrian-only area in 1968, but it was later reopened to one-way traffic and limited parking. The one-way traffic direction is now reversed so that vehicles enter from Mill Street rather than exit there.
The 30-foot aluminum Fred P. Adkins Memorial obelisk that once stood on the Plaza was relocated earlier this year to the center of a new traffic circle at the intersection of Mill Street, West Carroll Street, Riverside Drive and Camden Avenue.
The work also included significant changes at Main and Division streets near the Government Office Building that altered the parking pattern and also made it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
In between two curb bump-outs on the east side of North Division Street – one near the intersection and another closer to Route 50 – there are 12 angled, back-in parking spaces.
Officials also opted to remove the traffic signal at the Main-Division intersection.
City Council President Jack Heath said he and his wife recently drove the entire length of the newly renovated Main Street and reminisced about how the street looked before the Downtown Plaza was built. Sidewalks were crowded, shops were open and there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm, especially around Christmas.
“We may not achieve it this December, but wouldn’t it be fantastic if next December we see that kind of atmosphere back in the city?” he said.