STERLING – As $3 million is set aside for the reconstruction of Wallace Street – a key component in Sterling’s riverfront development – the City Council Monday prioritized more than $7.2 million in projects for the next phase of its plan.
Monday marks the start of the Wallace Street realignment, which will include construction of a roundabout.
For years, Wallace provided access to the National Manufacturing and Northwestern Steel & Wire factories along the Rock River. When work is complete, it will be the main road bringing visitors to the mixed-use park that will come to define the space.
To achieve that, Wallace needs to be aligned farther south, to get it a little farther from the railroad and so the lots on the north side of the road are easier to use. The city recently demolished part of the westernmost former National building to make way for the work.
The roundabout will be added at Avenue B to eliminate the T intersection and make it easier for traffic to exit the area back to the east in case a train is blocking the Avenue B crossing.
The work is expected to last until the end of July.
Now that construction is beginning, it is the right time to ready the the area for utility hook-ups along the Wallace Street corridor that will be needed as development progresses.
”Stubbing in” the utilities, which will cost about $150,000, was near the top of the list of development priorities that the council’s Riverfront Commission recently established and that council members approved unanimously Monday night.
Also on the top of the list is completing $1.4 million in “set-up” projects, including $300,000 for master planning work, hiring a historic consultant to help with obtaining tax credits and doing a physical needs assessment of the area.
Money for that preliminary work already was approved by the council. Funding for other projects will be approved as the need arises.
The city also will need about $395,000 to begin grant applications, to evaluate creating a connection to the Lawrence building under the railroad and to conduct a study to get a railroad quiet zone at the Avenue B crossing.
About $705,000 will be needed building lighting, securing the Lawrence property and addressing its windows, repairing the roof on the National building and creating some interim programming for residents to enjoy until other amenities are in place.
Now that the priorities are set, planning and preparation for these projects can get underway.
In the next two or three years, when the underlying structural work is complete, the fun can begin:
The final projects on the priority list involve building a $1.35 million concession/restroom/warming house structure, including the mechanicals needed for a ice ribbon and/or splash pad feature; creating an ADA-compliant play area with a “tot lot,” which will cost about $850,000, and installing about $950,000 in pathway lights and security cameras.
Discussions are under way on the potential for public-private partnerships to help pay for those amenities.
Council members are happy to see their years of planning and preparation beginning to resolve into projects that are coming to life, “visible progress that people can see,” Ward 1 Alderwoman Retha Elston said.
Ward 2 Alderwoman Chris Wilen also is pleased with the progress, and with the variety the riverfront space will have to offer resident of all ages – walking paths, green space, playgrounds and more.
“This is not going to be just a weekend park, this is going to be an area where people can come every day for one thing or another,” Wilen said.
“This is something that our families will be able to enjoy today, tomorrow and forever.”