Public invited on downtown planning walk in Athol 

  • A full moon rises as sunlight fades on the Town Hall on Main Street in Athol. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 11/10/2022 1:45:04 PM
Modified: 11/10/2022 1:44:38 PM

ATHOL — Athol residents and downtown business and property owners are being encouraged to participate in a neighborhood walk on Saturday morning and give input on downtown improvement plans.

The event will provide the public with an overview of Phase I plans targeting the area around Canal and Lumber streets. Phase 2 of the improvement plan includes South and Freedom streets. The site walk will take place from 10 a.m. to noon and will begin at Lord Pond Plaza.

The Bedford, New Hampshire-based engineering firm Wright-Pierce is seeking input as it develops an overall strategy for undertaking infrastructure improvements to the neighborhood. Comments from residents and business and property owners will assist planners in putting together a project that town officials hope will be funded by a $1.35 million Community Development Block Grant. The grant application must be submitted for approval early next year.

Work in the Canal-Lumber-South-and-Freedom streets neighborhood would be a continuation of the improvements being made as part of the South Street Neighborhood Improvement Plan, which already resulted in substantial upgrades to Walnut, Church and Maple streets.

Wright-Pierce was hired by Athol’s Department of Public Works to undertake the surveying and engineering assessment work for the South Street Neighborhood.

At a Sept. 20 meeting of Athol’s Selectboard, Wright-Pierce landscape architect Kalle Maggio explained, “These (CDBG) funds are meant to help guide communities in the effort to determine the design services for neighborhood improvements. And to qualify for these funds we need to submit the application and supporting documents no later than March of 2023. Once the funds are allocated to Athol, construction could potentially start as early as fall of 2023.”

Phase 1 one of the project would include establishing right of ways, and undertaking a survey for Lumber and Canal streets. Full design would include replacing the water main and the sewer, roadway and sidewalk improvement design, streetscaping and ensuring compliance with ADA (Americans with Disability Act) standards. It would also provide construction cost estimates.

Phase 2 would initially be limited to a survey of South and Freedom streets and the establishment of right of ways. As work on Phase 1 proceeds, work on Phase 2 would be confined to drafting of a conceptual design.

“We’ll only be able to work on the conceptual design during Phase 1,” Maggio told the Selectboard, “and as part of Phase 2 for South and Freedom, we’ll have to identify segments to include with the CDBG funding, depending on the cost of construction.”

Phase 1 would cover work along the entire length of Canal Street south of Main Street and north of South Street, as well as the full length of Lumber Street from Canal to Freedom. It would include infrastructure improvements like those seen along Walnut, Church, and Maple streets, such as utility replacement, sidewalk improvements, roadway repaving and creation of a pocket park.

Maggio told the Selectboard in September that Lumber and Canal streets have a “lack of accessible routes, the sidewalk is in disrepair, there’s no defined roadway delineation in some cases, it’s not ADA compliant, so there is a bit of a safety concern, and the overall surface pavement material could use a facelift.”

Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith said, “It’s important that residents and business owners come out for the neighborhood walk. That way Wright-Pierce can get a better idea of what the priorities are for those people most affected by the project.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.


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