by Dennis Hohenberger, Courant Community
First Selectman Chris Kervick and town and state officials kicked off the Main Street – Complete Streets Project, with a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 13.
The first phase of the project will realign the sidewalk between Spring and Church streets.
The new sidewalk will be farther back from Main Street, tracing a safer and wider path by the shops and apartments at Waterside Village, according to Kervick. The project will incorporate reclaimed railroad tracks, a nod to Windsor Locks’ industrial past.
The major portion of the project is funded by a $3 million Complete Street Grant. State funding will cover most of the construction costs.
The initial phase will reverse the order of the current configuration, with the shop’s parking lot closer to Main Street, a landscaped area and, finally, the wider sidewalk. Pedestrians will stroll on the shop side once construction is completed.
The ceremony was brief, as crews readied to pour concrete for the sidewalks. Preliminary work began a few days before.
“This will become the main public right of way. There will be no sidewalk out in the road,” Kervick said.
He added the shops and apartments are consistent with his vision for reviving Main Street, which was basically raised in the 1970s. His plans call for mixed-use or residential over retail establishments.
“We can’t move the buildings to the street. Eventually, we’re going to move the street to the building,” he said.
Kervick has spoken with potential developers over the past few months, but nothing is solid at this point.
He expects the Complete Streets Project will generate interest from developers.
“We think it’s going to lead in the direction we want it to go,” he said.
The town is waiting on approval by the Connecticut Department of Transportation to implement traffic calming measures along Main Street, slowing the traffic down to safe and reasonable speeds.
For Tina Salvatore, who owns Tina’s Cake Emporium at the shops, the wider sidewalk means she can set up several café tables in front of her shop. Salvatore baked cupcakes in recognition of the groundbreaking, with chocolate shovels wedged into the frosting.
“This project is wonderful. Even though we started the construction this week, my customers are still coming in,” Salvatore said. “I expected to have no customers. I had great sales Wednesday.”
She had planned to close the shop the next week for vacation, avoiding the disruption caused by the construction.
“They can do whatever they went in front of my shop,” she said.
Salvatore expects to add two or three tables, with chairs, when the sidewalks are finished, a place for customers to enjoy a cupcake and coffee.
“I have grandparents bringing their grandchildren to my shop. Once everything comes about, this is going to be fantastic. I’ll have a lot more,” she said.
A Windsor Locks native, Salvatore remembered the original Main Street, the one before a poorly conceived attempt at urban renewal in the 1970s.
“It was horrible when it happened. If we can get that back here, Windsor Locks can rock,” Salvatore said.
Millenium Builders is leading the project. Peter Carey, the construction coordinator, joined Kervick and town officials for the ceremonial groundbreaking.
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