PHILADELPHIA A walking bridge crosses a small island on the Indian River to lead from the village downtown to the area of Kent Lane Park and Philadelphia Primary School alongside Route 11.
Residents use the bridge daily, yet drivers whizzing by on the highway overhead dont notice it, because the island is thick with trees and brush. That soon will change, however, with a project designed to transform the site into a village landmark and show it off to encourage more businesses to open here.
The trees are coming down so when youre looking through on Route 11 to Main Street, youll be able to see all of the businesses here, said Matthew J. Montroy, mayor since 2009. We wanted to build something thats pleasing to the eyes. The idea is to get people to come, and in turn, get businesses to come.
After four years of planning, the village is putting final touches on a $459,083 project to build Gateway Island Park. Mid-way across the bridge will be a 568-square-foot, semicircular deck with benches. Lighting will be installed and aluminum railings will replace a chain-link fence. Bronze signs will greet people, who will be able to lock their bicycles at either end of the walkway.
The newly landscaped island itself will not be accessible for public safety reasons, although it will showcase a large statue and flagpole. Steps from the bridge onto the island as shown in architectural renderings will be for workers only.
The project hatched by village planners in 2009 was made possible by a $351,000 grant from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The village will be responsible for matching 25 percent, or $87,750, of that grant. The remaining $108,083 of the cost will come from the village revitalization fund, which contains about $1 million. That money was acquired over the years from the sale of the villages hydroelectric plant on Gardner Road, which is now owned by Fortis U.S. EnergyCorp., Newfoundland.
Mr. Montroy said the blueprint for the project is being finalized by Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown. It is expected to get final approval soon from the state parks office, which would enable construction work to be put out to bid this fall. Workers are expected to break ground on the project in the spring.
The large statue to be exhibited on the island will be paid for as an additional cost by the village, Mr. Montroy said, because the revitalization committee hasnt selected a statue and is still taking suggestions from residents. The statue could feature Frenchman Jacques Le Ray de Chaumont, a historical figure who in 1802 sold land to the Quakers that became the village of Philadelphia in 1804.
Gateway Island Park is just one of a litany of improvements outlined in the downtown revitalization plan completed by the village in 2011, Mr. Montroy said. Other projects include starting a walking trail along the Indian River, rehabilitating downtown buildings and facades, installing new lighting on Main Street and updating zoning laws to make them business-friendly. The latter goal has been worked on every month over the past year by members of the village zoning committee.
Were going through all of the zoning laws line by line, because we want to make it easy for a business to meet with our Planning Board and get a clear set of guidelines for projects, Mr. Montroy said.
This fall, the village plans to demolish two old buildings at 59 and 61 Main St. that it owns across from its office at 56 Main St., Mr. Montroy said. Demolishing those buildings will clear space to build a two-story building there in 2014 that will become its new office. The current office, which will be vacated under the plan, then could be sold to a business interested in moving downtown.
Three businesses are on Main Street: Sylvias Antiques, Natures Warehouse and Upstate National Bank.