By Charlene Lovett
On June 24, the Claremont City Council adopted a budget for fiscal year (FY) 2021 that reflected an increased investment in roads and more resources to address neighborhood blight. Now that the budgetary process is completed, the council’s attention will turn to funding capital improvement projects to build upon the progress already made in revitalizing the city center and historic district.
First and foremost on the list of capital improvement projects for consideration is the finalization and implementation of the conceptual plan to completely redesign the city center. Two years into the design and engineering phase of the Rethink Pleasant Street Project, the conceptual plan is 60% complete. It represents a $200,000 community investment and reflects the public’s input. The plan calls for rerouting the truck route away from the city center, redesigning traffic flow, enlarging sidewalks, improving streetscape and increasing parking. To finalize the plan, an additional $150,000 will be needed along with a series of public forums to ensure the finished product reflects the community’s vision for the city center.
To maximize the public’s investment in the engineering and design of this project, it will be important to move to the implementation phase. How to best fund this project will need to be answered. During the budgetary process, City Manager Ed Morris offered a possible solution. With the retirement of three bonds, he proposed bonding the approximate $4.55 million project. Such a bond would include the additional $150,000 to complete the plan and the $4.4 million to implement it. Included in the $4.4 million would be $3.1 million for road and parking reconstruction, $650,000 for water and sewer replacement and $650,000 for streetscape (i.e. lighting, brick/granite accents, vegetation, bike racks, benches).
Given the investment that the community has already made in developing the plan, current low interest rates and the retirement of multiple bonds, such a solution may be the best approach. On Wednesday, July 8, the city will host a forum to solicit the public’s input on the work done to date. That same evening the council will meet and receive an in-depth presentation on the project. A high level of public engagement will provide the feedback that the council will need to best answer the questions of how and when to fund the Rethink Pleasant Street Project.
Should this multi-million dollar project be approved, it will resolve long standing infrastructure issues in one of the oldest parts of the city, build upon the millions that have already been invested in the historic district and open new economic opportunities. If done well, it will foster public/private partnerships essential to the rehabilitation of historic buildings, expand the tax base and increase city valuation.
To learn more about this project, please go to rethinkpleasantsteet.com and consider attending either the forum or the council meeting on July 8. More details on how to participate in those events will be forthcoming. If you are unable to attend, please consider sharing your thoughts on the project with your councilor. This proposed project represents a significant community investment and hearing from you is essential in determining how to best move forward.
Charlene Lovett is the mayor of Claremont and a 22-year Army veteran. She welcomes your feedback. Please email questions, comments or concerns to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.