King Street Walkway Aims for a ‘Walkable’ Downtown
MIDDLETOWN—Mayor Joseph DeStefano intends for his city to be clean, safe, and comfortable and the King Street Walkway will be a big step in that direction.
On Feb. 1, DeStefano and his team explained how the soon-to-be-completed walkway will make the downtown a more comfortable place to relax and walk through, and will encourage residents and visitors coming from the Heritage Trail to connect with downtown stores and eateries.
The length of a short block, the walkway connects the main thoroughfare of North Street with the large parking lot along James Street. Proceeds from the Run 4 Downtown, a $26,000 gift to the city from race organizers Dave and Anna Madden, will buy a large clock to stand at the North Street end.
DeStefano thinks all the city’s residents will benefit, not only those living downtown. He calls it “creating walkability.” The benefits are to the city as a whole. “It’s aesthetically pleasing. It’s going to be very comforting. It’s addressing what we feel are making people feel more comfortable walking downtown.”
“We are just trying to make it like you are in a small center of the city which will be very comforting,” said Jacob Tawil, commissioner of Public Works, who is managing the project.
BID head John Degnan said residents are in favor of the project. With King Street upgraded to more than a short one-way street, he said people will come through either way for local services. “They won’t hesitate walking through. It will be opened up.”
Degnan and his team canvassed the neighborhood. “I haven’t talked to one resident that would be concerned. All of the residents that I’ve talked to are happy.”
Director of Community and Economic Development Maria Bruni noted that “This is going to provide green space for the residents in our downtown—a place to go, hang out, have trees right outside your door, planters, benches. They will have their garden space.”
The garbage bins near the parking lot will be relocated. DeStefano says “It’s going to be a beautiful flow, almost a circular flow.”
The mayor sees the walkway, as the first in his latest round of projects, an important connection to the Middletown section of the Heritage Trail. “With the [Heritage] Trail coming, [the walkway] is going to be one of the two options when you come out of the transportation center and comes through the Woolworth Building” toward restaurants and other activities.
The walkway is planned to be an arterial from the Heritage Trail. “We are using the trail and not just letting the trail run through the community. We want to create arterials off the trail and bring them into our business community,” including arterials to SUNY Orange and Touro College, a recent educational addition to Middletown.
DeStefano said this is just one of other projects planned for the year. “We have all these opportunities that we are working on now to have that trail really be a major impetus for community development, not only economic development.”
Generous funding has made the walkway possible. The project is financed by state and local grants and monies available in the city’s budget. Funding comes from $80,000 in community development block grants, a $50,000 grant secured by Senator Bonacic, and a $63,800 grant from the soon-to-be-dissolved Middletown Industrial Expansion Corporation.
The city has taken out short-term loans which will be paid back on a timely basis for the rest. “We had an opportunity to get it done and get it done quickly,” he said.
A boutique hotel has been proposed for a building at the lower end of the walkway and a proposal is being considered for the Tompkins building at the North Street end. “The idea is to make Middletown more walkable, especially with the trail coming in and all the other activities that are planned in the downtown.”
Tawil manages the project. The mayor calls Tawil “Mr. Trees” for being a strong advocate of trees and greenery downtown. The pedestrian walk will be eight feet wide for walkers and bikers, and for emergency access.
“The rest is all planters, benches, and some trees” that will accommodate the predominantly shaded block. Wiring for street lights is already in place.
There have been minimal problems so construction is moving along quickly, given the unseasonably warm weather.
Anthony Monaco Landscaping won the bid to build the walkway and is now installing granite curbing and addressing some issues of basements that extend under the sidewalk.
Tawil said the sidewalk will be paved with native bluestone, a natural cleft sandstone used for patios, walkways and flooring. Quarried in New York, the stone is strong and durable, and available in natural irregular or cut shapes.
Engineering and planning firm Clark Patterson Lee oversees the overall design. Tawil said Monaco is presently installing some pavement and electric conduits with electrical contractor Harry Rotolo.
During his tenure as mayor DeStefano has sought to bring people into downtown by making it cleaner, safer, and more comfortable.
“That’s the whole idea: to make people feel comfortable when they are here. We are doing all those things,” DeStefano said.
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