By Sue Moore
Some downtown Vicksburg property owners and businesspeople appear dubious about proposals to reshape the main business block of South Main Street with changes to sidewalk widths, parking and traffic flow.
Several alternatives were presented by Village Manager Jim Mallery at a May 14 meeting, as the village prepares for a two-year program to upgrade underground utilities, including the block of Main Street between Prairie and Washington.
Digging up part of the street provides an opportunity to reshape it to meet needs for several decades to come, Mallery pointed out.
Some of the five alternatives presented at the meeting included widening sidewalks for more of an outdoor cafe-like setting, changing angle parking to parallel parking or vice versa, providing a bike lane and restricting traffic to a one-way southbound lane. The proposals reduced parking on the block, from the current 36 spaces, some more than others.
The loss of parking concerned several businesspeople, although Mallery said opening a village parking lot adjacent to the Post Office would make up for the difference.
Mallery attributed the need for changes to change in peoples’ habits in transportation and the trends the planners believe are happening in cities and villages across the country.
“The trend is in non-motorized transportation, livability, walkability and a safe environment for core business districts,” Mallery said.
He added that studies show development in Kalamazoo County moving toward the southwest. When that land is gobbled up, it’s predicted the next movement will be southeast toward Vicksburg. For a number of years until 2010, population of the village was steady at 2,200. Since then it has grown by about 50 percent to 3,400. “We are sitting in a positive way for attracting business to downtown Vicksburg,” Mallery said.
The state of Michigan provided grant funding to study infrastructure throughout the village. The study came back with a list of projects estimated at $30 million, much of it for sanitary sewer improvements.
This is especially imperative on 22nd street, in the Allen-Edwin development which has fueled much of the population growth. A six-inch sewer needs to be replaced along with a lift station. The downtown has the oldest sewers in the village; they need replacement.
Sewage which now flows from 22nd Street to Highway Street will be redirected through Washington Street to S. Main to E. Prairie and on out to Spruce Street. There it will intersect with the rest of the village sewer system and be pumped through Portage to the Kalamazoo City sewage treatment plant.
The project would not be doable without a 40-year USDA loan available to municipalities of less than 10,000 population. “This will increase costs for rate-payers of the system,” Mallery said, “but the need is so great, we can’t afford not to finance it in this way.” It will add another 30 to 40-year life span to the current system.
Plans for the sewage system improvements are to be prepared by a June 6 village council meeting. Bids for underground work need to be let in August so downtown work can begin by July, 2020.
Before the public meeting Mallery had formed a committee of business owners. He said he will take comments about Main Street changes from the public meeting back to the committee for further refinement before it goes to the council for review. The design sketches for the five alternatives are available on the village’s website.