The city of Moscow and the Moscow Urban Renewal Agency each budgeted $60,000 this fiscal year to scope out a plan to improve the downtown’s deteriorating infrastructure.

Bill Belknap, Moscow community development director and MURA executive director, said a consultant team will be hired to help the two entities examine the conditions of the streets, sidewalks, curbs, benches, planters, light fixtures and other elements in the downtown core and devise a concept plan to address them.

Art Bettge, Moscow city councilor and MURA commissioner, said fixing slopes so water drains away from storefronts and replacing old trees should also be part of the project.

“The accumulated wear and tear is starting to show,” Bettge said.

Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert said the infrastructure looks tired and worn out.

“We just need to spruce it up and have it so it’s looking very nice,” he said.

The downtown streetscape was constructed through the 1981 downtown Local Improvement District. Except for the Friendship Square renovation in 2006, the city has placed little investment in downtown infrastructure, according to the city’s major challenge areas listed on its website. It says much of the streetscape is in poor condition and the planters, benches, light poles and exposed aggregate treatments installed 38 years ago are dated and deteriorating.

“It’s been a known need since the council adopted the strategic plan in 2015,” Belknap said. “We’ve been aware of the deteriorating condition of the infrastructure certainly for years preceding that but when the council developed the 2015 strategic plan, that’s when it became more formally recognized by the council as being a major challenge area.”

Belknap said they will also determine what infrastructure improvements will best support downtown events like the farmers market.

“How can we best design downtown to be a good venue for those community events?” Belknap said. “How can we improve the experience for farmers market and other events downtown and how can we just try to enhance, really, the public space that downtown represents?”

While the goal is to develop a plan of action by the end of the fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, Belknap said a timeline for when the improvements will be completed will be unknown until the details of the plan and costs are defined.

Once those are identified, a funding plan will be developed. Belknap said they will look at the city and MURA’s financial capabilities as well as likely pursue grant funding.

The Moscow City Council approved a year ago the expansion of the Legacy Crossing Urban Renewal District to include Main Street. The expansion will allow the MURA to financially contribute to the downtown repairs.

Belknap said elements of the project will probably be phased in over time because of the expensive cost of the improvements.

While Main Street will be the focus of the upgrades, Belknap said the project area will likely include roughly Jackson Street to the west, Washington Street to the east, A Street to the north and Eighth Street to the south.

“It’s a vibrant resource that makes Moscow a nice place to live and a nice place to visit, and anything we can do to enhance that feel and to maintain the infrastructure that’s associated with that is something that we really ought to be doing,” Bettge said. “It’s not just the hardware, the streets, the sidewalks, things like that. It’s the feel of the place and through maintaining that feel we can really bring more people downtown and give Moscow its sense of place in the rest of the world that makes it different and kind of funky and neat.”

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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