When drivers or pedestrians cross the soon-to-be rebuilt bridges on Downer Place in downtown Aurora, a streetscape improvement project will ensure they find an area with landscaping, rain gardens and brick-paved crosswalks.
Work is set to begin Monday on streetscape upgrades, which will bring wider sidewalks, shorter crosswalks, new curbs and gutters and landscaped areas to the section of Downer on Stolp Island between the bridges.
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The project is estimated to cost $700,000 and should be mostly completed by mid-November, when the rebuilt bridges are expected to be finished. Installation of brick crosswalks and native plantings to create rain gardens will be finished next spring.
The streetscape improvements and bridge replacements are among three road-related projects going on simultaneously in downtown. The city also will be turning Downer Place and Benton Street into two-way roads west of Broadway Avenue and implementing four-way stops to replace traffic signals where Downer and Benton intersect with Stolp Avenue.
The new vision for Downer originated during a 2010 workshop with downtown business and property owners about how to transform the street for greater accessibility to businesses, according to city spokesman Kevin Stahr.
Lane Allen of Allen + Pepa Architects at 121 W. Benton said his firm ran the workshops, which discussed "place-making and enhancing the sense of place for downtown Aurora," along with ways to slow traffic and make the area safer for shoppers.
Allen praised the city's vision for following nationwide redevelopment trends of opening up one-way streets for two-way traffic and adding native plantings to streetscapes.
The streetscape improvement project will be funded partly by a $70,000 Illinois Green Infrastructure grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Rain gardens, which remove pollutants from stormwater by filtering it through native plants and special soils, give the project its green punch and make it eligible for the grant.