Monday, December 6, 2021

East Jackson Avenue to Become More Pedestrian-Friendly

Conceptual plan for the East Jackson Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project. Image via the city of Oxford.

East Jackson Avenue will look a lot different this summer with fewer parking spaces and more green places.

On Tuesday, the Oxford Board of Aldermen approved a request to advertise for bids for the East Jackson Avenue streetscape project, encouraging city staff to get the ball rolling to make the east side of the downtown Square more pedestrian-friendly.

After the Board reviewed the conceptual plans for the improvements on East Jackson – between Boles Wiley Ally and Ninth Street – on Jan. 25 during a work session, city staff invited business owners who have businesses along the street to meet and discuss the project and the best time to begin construction.

Of the four business owners who accepted the invitation to meet with staff, Oxford’s Chief of Operations Bart Robinson said they were all in support of the project and “voiced strong support” in starting construction this spring so it would be completed by the summer.

“They wanted to just rip the Band-Aid off and get it going,” Robinson told the Board Tuesday.

The 647-feet, one-way street includes one bank, three retail stores, Visit Oxford, the Federal Courthouse and 11 restaurants/bars.

All of the businesses are currently fronted with narrow, 4-feet sidewalks that are showing their age.

The plans for the project include removing most of the parking on East Jackson Avenue, going from 45 spaces down to 15 spaces.

The proximity of the Downtown Parking Garage, just north of East Jackson Avenue, made the possibility of converting parking spaces to outdoor seating areas possible.

The plan includes expanding the sidewalks and adding trees, planters and seating areas.

While the outdoor dining that came about as a result of COVID-19 increased the interest of having more pedestrian-friendly areas around the Square, the city had already begun discussions to widen the sidewalks on that portion of East Jackson last year and had budgeted $250,000 for the project in June 2020.

Director of Special Project Mark Levy said the city hopes to have final designs complete this month so that they can begin advertising for bids by March 10, with bid opening around April 15. If the Board approves the bids, construction would begin around the middle of May.

The total cost for the project is estimated to be about $750,000.

“We will have to see how the bids come in before we have the final amount,” Levy said Wednesday.

Robinson told the Board Tuesday that potential funding sources for the project include;

 The $250,000 already budgeted for the East Jackson Sidewalk Improvement project

 $408,288 from 2% for Parking Garage debt service (budgeted in FY20/21 as reserve)

 $408,288 from Oxford Trust for Parking Garage debt service (budgeted in FY 20/21 as reserve).