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Fix is in again for downtown

Call it Waterfront Drive, the sequel. Downtown Two Harbors will see another major street reconstruction project next year as plans are being finalized for a total reconstruction of First Avenue.

"It's very similar to Waterfront," said Joel Litman, project engineer from LHB of Duluth. He is working with the city and Lake County on the shared project that will include sewer and water work, sidewalks, and landscaping.

The 2010 project was moved up from 2011 to keep in line with improvements downtown, county highway engineer Al Goodman said during a presentation of the project to the county board last week. "We want to maintain the momentum in Two Harbors," Goodman said.

"The momentum is there," said Two Harbors City Clerk Lee Klein, because of the success of the Waterfront project. "Downtown businesses have a taste for it now," he said. "Seeing the final product on Waterfront is a plus."

Jon Gregor, owner of Cold Snap Photography on First, is part of a beautification committee for downtown business owners. "We want some sort of greenery added," he said. The committee is bringing together ideas to make the street more "inviting, with a human feel," he said. "Adding living plants goes a long way in doing that."

The committee is looking at projects done in other cities of Two Harbors' size, Gregor said. "It's a cold and hard landscape right now."

There will be a pointed effort to keep the downtown businesses informed on the project schedule to keep the disruption to a minimum, Litman said.

Because of traffic flows and business access, it will be difficult to keep the whole construction area off limits. Goodman said alleys and other alternative routes will be shored up to provide good roads around the construction. Downtown events will also be taken into consideration, such as summer festivals.

On the west end of the project, businesses have back alleys and lots for options. A challenge will come with city hall access and bank drive-up window areas.

Some storm sewer work will be done and Goodman said he hopes there will be some coordination with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Much of downtown water is collected in a basin next to Agate Bay. That area would be significantly changed by a planned marina, in which the DNR plans to blast out a significant chunk of the shoreline.

"It's a good opportunity to redirect the storm water away from Lake Superior," Goodman said.

Big street plan

- Work will be from Seventh Street, near the Moose Lodge, and three blocks east to Fourth Street.

- Complete reconstruction from the face of buildings, including sidewalks, curb, and paving. Surfaces will be similar to Waterfront Drive, completed earlier this year.

- Water mains and sanitary sewer will be replaced. Storm sewer also upgraded where needed.

- There will be ornamental lighting and other landscape aesthetics to be worked out in meetings with the public.

- At least three meetings will be scheduled with business owners to coordinate street closings and other details.

- The city and Lake County will split costs in the $1.3 million project. Lake County is responsible for the roadway, or about $800,000 of the cost. Assessments and other cost breakdowns have yet to be worked out.

- Project would begin as soon as possible in the spring with a four-month completion goal.

- Business owners invite public input on what First Avenue may look like when the reconstruction is finished. Call Jon Gregor 834-0756 to find out about the next beautification committee meeting.