Hampshire set to build downtown streetscape along State Street
Downtown Hampshire is about to get a bold new look.
Village officials last month announced plans to build a streetscape along State Street between Washington Avenue and Jefferson Street. Construction is slated to begin in June and finish in September.
Village Manager Jay Hedges said the $1 million project will be fully funded by a state grant. Village officials initially sought to use the funds for other infrastructure projects, but only this type of project qualified for the money.
Hedges said the village board had been talking about rejuvenating the downtown area for about eight years, and this grant presented an opportunity to take action. If Hampshire didn't submit an eligible plan by the end of December, the state would have reclaimed the money.
"The village didn't have a village manager for about eight years before I came here (at the end of 2019), so there really wasn't a staff that had the time to focus on it," Hedges said. "When I joined the village, this was part of a handful of really high priorities: What is the most important thing we could spend this money on, and what would be allowable?"
Village officials spent the last several months meeting with local commissions, representatives from downtown businesses and other community members to get a better idea of what people wanted from the streetscape. Common feedback was for the area to retain its small-town atmosphere while improving safety for pedestrians and drivers.
The planned streetscape will create a "Festival Block" where the village can host community events like its street dance, car show and Christmas market. Newly paved intersections and crosswalks will clearly define the area with brick pavers.
Canopy lighting, landscaping, tree planting and a pedestal clock also will be included.
Hedges said $600,000 of the grant will be used on infrastructure improvements.
"We don't want to put lipstick on a pig," he said. "Some of the infrastructure there under State Street is 50, 60, 70 years old. We definitely wanted to make sure part of this project was replacing all the water and sewer system and electrical lines."
State Street between Washington and Jefferson will be closed during construction, forcing a detour of traffic west along Park Street. Nearby businesses and sidewalks will remain open.
Hedges said that as of May 1, trucks weighing more than 20 tons are no longer permitted on State Street.
"It worked out great in the end," he said. "It'll be a challenging three months, but once it's over, it'll be a great place for local residents to enjoy their downtown."