Source: News-Journal, August 29, 2012

Streetscape Project Underway, on Schedule
By Shaun Tilghman, News Editor

North Manchester is now more than two weeks into the revitalization project that will see downtown forever changed, and Town Manager Dan Hannaford is pleased with the current pace of the construction process.

According to Hannaford, crews began cracking the concrete on the north side of Main Street--between Market and Walnut streets--on Tuesday, Aug. 14. "they're making pretty good time cracking the concrete," he added. "Things are moving right along according to schedule."

Now that the concrete is being broken up, the streetlights in that stretch of sidewalk have also been removed. The plan is to leave the streetlights up on the south side of Main Street until the new ones are installed on the north side, so there will be lights downtown throughout the entire process.

Once the crews have finished with that stretch of Main Street, they will begin breaking up the concrete on the west side of Walnut Street, probably next wee, Hannaford said. They won't have as much to do on the east side of Walnut Street, because Chris Bradford already redid the sidewalk next to his building (202 E. Main Street). Then they will continue down the north side of Main Street to Mill Street.

"They'll have to come back and dig the light poles out on the north side of Main Street and on Walnut Street," Hannaford stated. "They they have to pour the footers for the new poles (in different locations) and then they'll pour the new sidewalks over top of that. All of that will probably take a few weeks, between breaking up the concrete and getting the new footers in for the light poles. Once that stuff is all done, they should start taking the lights out on the south side of Main Street, and they'll probably work from east to west back to the corner of Main and Market streets."

According to Hannaford, most of the businesses on the north side of Main Street have been able to maintain their regular hours of operation. Bridges have been erected in front of the businesses so patrons can cross the sidewalks during construction, but the bridges will have to be removed for a 24-hour period after the new concrete is poured.

The initial phase of construction has uncovered what Hannaford calls "a few surprises" though. "there were a few holes they didn't know were down there and some cisterns," he added.

"I've been told that they're still right on schedule though," Hannaford continued. "Those couple of holes they had to fill didn't require any structural changes. They brought a guy in to block up some of the holes from the coal bins and chutes, and he's very fast."

During a presentation in July, Hannaford described "a number of vaults, coal chutes, and other mysteries under the sidewalks" and said INDOT (Indiana Department of Transportation) is requiring that 34 such vaults be filled in. The sidewalks on Main Street are State Highway right-of-ways, which means the state owns them rather than the town or the building owners, and those vaults are an encroachment.

The majority of vaults under the downtown sidewalks are either coal chutes or bins where coal was dumped, Hannaford said. He and members of the North Manchester Town Council met with building owners during the planning phase of the project to discuss what was to be done with said vaults.

"We had a meeting with building owners to explain the situation, and most of them are actually glad to get rid of them," Hannaford said. "They really wanted those vaults filled in because they leaked water. There was discussion about putting metal over the top of the vaults, pouring the concrete on top of that, and then filling them with some type of gravel. If we had put gravel in there they still would have leaked, so putting the [light cement] in there reduces the risk of water infiltration.

"A few of the buildings had openings below the sidewalks with either windows or doors, but most of them were just coal chutes or coal bins. The only ones that I would consider to have historic value are the ones on either side of Walnut Street."

According to Hannaford, the choice to either restore or not restore those areas on Walnut Street was left in the hands of the respective building owners.

"One thing to keep in mind," Hannaford continued, "is that a lot of those coal bins and chutes were in ill repair, and the money to repair the vault would have been extensive. Because of the amount of money that is involved there, it would be unfair to expect the taxpayers to pay for it. Actually, the biggest concern from people from the historical society was whether there was anything in those vaults that could be used in the museum, rather than preserving the actual vaults."

The plans require all construction to be completed by Dec. 14, but Hannaford is confident that everything will be done closer to the middle of November.