The streetscape of Bellevue’s Lincoln Avenue business district is getting a makeover this summer as contractors install sidewalks, environmentally sustainable infrastructure, landscaped bump-outs and new lighting.
Council member Kathy Coder said the upgrades are part of a larger picture. “We’re trying to create a different vision and culture for Bellevue,” she said, “and this is just the beginning.”
Currently in the third phase of a multiphase program, said Ron Borczyk, the borough’s director of administrative services. Bellevue is fortunate to have secured a Community Development Block Grant for approximately $300,000.
“There was a resident committee that worked long and hard assessing public comments and incorporating those comments into hiring an engineer to see what’s best,” he said, noting that the bump-outs — which jut into the street and contain decorative plants — sparked some debate.
As they’re being installed, the bump-outs are still a concern for some business owners, including Justin Weiss, 28, owner of Guys and Dolls Salon on Lincoln Avenue. “This has killed our business,” said Mr. Weiss, who opened the shop 19 months ago. “Our older customers haven’t been able to get here [through the construction], and our walk-in traffic is gone.”
Nick Giese, 28, manager of Ephesus Pizza, said he was miffed at not being told before the street was torn up, saying it caused people to park in his building’s back lot and delayed his deliveries.
“The design was approved with bump-outs,” said Mr. Borczyk, noting the construction will be completed by the end of this month. “There’s bound to be disruption in day-to-day organizations, but this will be a short-term inconvenience for long-term improvements.”
Tucker Le, owner of Last Call Entertainment, is thrilled with the bump-out in front of his store.
“The construction has been no problem,” he said, adding, “The bump-outs make it look nicer here, and I believe it will bring in more business. When people see this, it gives a good image and shows that Bellevue is thriving.”
Bruce Berringer, executive director of the YMCA, agrees. “There are so many good things happening in Bellevue these days,” he said. “This is just one part of the overall plan, which will help the borough to promote itself.”
Bellevue is among 11 towns in the Allegheny Together program, which was launched in 2007 and designed to assist traditional pedestrian-based business districts with revitalization projects and funding. Led by Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, the program supports Bellevue’s efforts with a professional staff of architects, real estate experts, community planners, community development specialists and project managers.
Bellevue’s landscape architect Bradley Hazelwood of Pittsburgh’s Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. said the improvements will make Bellevue’s business district safer for pedestrians.
“The bump-outs shorten the distance people are walking across the street and also make them visible between parked cars,” he said, noting very few parking spaces are being eliminated, while highly visible crosswalks will provide more safety. Plus, visual changes in the pavement will make legal street parking spaces more obvious to drivers.
“In addition to the aesthetics, another benefit is the storm water management,” noted Mr. Hazelwood, referencing the new storm drains, which consist of a gravel layer and 2 feet of soil on top of that. “If you have a storm, that first flush water goes into the soil, which breaks down the chemical elements.”
These design elements are being implemented around the country to combat the growing problem posed by an outdated sewage system, said Mrs. Coder, and Bellevue’s streetscape is on the cutting edge of that technology. “We’re in the forefront of showing what can be done with green infrastructure,” she said.
Mr. Hazelwood said poles with new LED lighting can accommodate Christmas lights and arms for banners or hanging baskets.
“This will show people coming into Bellevue that we’re a proud community,” he said. “The whole idea is to attract business, and better lighting will do that.”
Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.