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Roanoke received only one bid, but the city shouldn’t give up on plans for a pedestrian plaza.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Last winter when proposed renovations to Market Square attracted a solitary bid, one well above the project’s budget, we urged Roanoke officials to put their plans for a pedestrian plaza on pause in hopes that more fish would be nibbling this fall.
We also advised city leaders against shifting money from other projects to fill the funding gap but were equally opposed to discarding the proposal altogether.
Alas, the fish are proving to be persistently picky eaters, and the city is left with unappetizing options.
The only contractor to bite on the project in the second round wants $1.12 million for the work, down only a smidge from the $1.15 million bid earlier this year and still well above the budgeted $700,000.
City officials say they will forge ahead, dipping into a fund for streetscape projects to cover the extra cost. None of the money in the fund has been promised to other projects.
The need to replace old utility lines has added to the price tag, but the primary driver is the need to ease the pain of long-suffering farmers, shopkeepers and restaurateurs fatigued by renovations to the Roanoke City Market Building and Center in the Square. It’s appropriate for city officials, as they set financial priorities, to take into consideration not only the good humor but the financial stability of its downtown merchants. MB Contractors’ bid reflects the fact that it is being asked to perform the work during winter months and meet a tricky three-month deadline.
It’s worth remembering the project is still one of modest dimensions and finances, and yet it is consequential because of its pivotal location amid much larger initiatives that have spurred downtown renewal. The pedestrian plaza envisioned for Market Square will draw more people to the heart of downtown to linger at the farmers market and in shops and restaurants.
With that worthy goal in mind, city officials should stick with their plan for Market Square, one that offers downtown businesses hope that spring sunshine will also bring peace and prosperity.
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