Am I Reading This Right?
By Andrew Richter
New Hope just never ceases to amaze me;
After receiving positive feedback from New Hope City Council regarding the proposed City Center streetscape plans, the city learned several things needed changing before Hy-Vee would agree to the upgrades. The plans were first reviewed by the council in August. Revisions were made and returned to council for feedback Oct. 20. The council overall was agreeable on all aspects of the project.
The entire New Hope City Council agreed? I am shocked!
As of Oct. 20, upgrades to Xylon, 42nd and 45th avenues included a digital reader board, vertical signs, concrete sidewalks with paver bands as dividers, arbor structures, trees, lighting, seating, parking lot buffers, ballards, railings and raised concrete planters.
All of course are complete and total needs right? I mean how can we do this without “raised concrete planters?”
Options to add local art, additional seating areas and decorative crosswalks was available.
In October, Stantec estimated the project to cost a total of $5.86 million with New Hope paying roughly $4.98 million and Hy-Vee providing $882,000. To upgrade any materials or include extra features would be an additional cost.
$5.86 million!!! Oh my God!!!
The city is expecting to receive $3.6 million from Hy-Vee’s purchase of the lot which can be put towards the project’s cost. Tax increment financing district funds can also be utilized for the project. Other funding sources could include Economic Development Authority funds, utility funds, assessments or a tax levy.
Just use them all!
It was believed at that meeting that Hy-Vee was agreeable to the project and its costs but staff later found out Hy-Vee wanted change. According to staff, Hy-Vee claimed it was not kept informed of the street designs and were unwilling to pay for its portion – $882,000. Staff then worked with Hy-Vee to resolve the issue and come to an agreement. To do so, staff scaled down the amenities making it more affordable.
So this is the scaled-down version!!
The Planning Commission, Citizens Advisory Committee and Human Rights Commission reviewed the project plans as well, as directed by the council, and agreed the plan would likely need to be reduced to make it more affordable.
Nathan Ekhoff of Stantec attended the Nov. 17 meeting to update the council on project adjustments.
To reduce costs, Stantec replaced the paver bands on the sidewalks with colored concrete – a cheaper material, reduced the number of trees near the parking lot but maintained the same amount of trees along the roadways, replaced the bus shelter with a bench, simplified the buffering near the parking lot, removed several arbor structures, reduced the amount of plants, used different plants and simplified the main intersection.
By making these adjustments, the project cost was reduced to more than $5.47 million. New Hope’s new portion of the cost would be roughly $5.2 million and Hy-Vee would provide nearly $270,000. If actual costs increase, Hy-Vee’s portion is not to exceed $314,000. Hy-Vee was agreeable to the new costs and the majority of the council had little to say regarding the city’s portion.
Way to protect the taxpayers New Hope! Hy-Vee doesn’t want to pay so the taxpayers will!
Councilmember Daniel Stauner experienced some sticker shock as he saw the city’s new cost estimate. “I’m having a really hard time understanding why this is worth millions for taxpayers,” he said. Staff said it was important to note that more than $3.1 million of the project’s cost will be dedicated to street, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and water main upgrades which cannot be reduced. Some of that cost has already been paid for as well.
So $3.1 million is “needed” but $5.47 is expected to be spent!
Community Development Director Jeff Sargent said he believed the city’s goal was to create a space that would draw residents and visitors because they like the area and want to stop. “We could put just a normal street but I don’t see any value in that either,” Sargent said.
No value in a normal street? In other words, a normal street will do just fine but you want to spend more and more on unnecessary things.
Stauner believed simply “prettying” up the street would not draw more people to the area.
No it won’t but expect Stauner’s plea to fall on deaf ears.
He hoped to avoid making assumptions as to the outcome of the area and urged city staff to seek resident input on the project before making any final decisions.
As always, public input will come last.
Councilmember John Elder agreed that questions needed to be raised and the cost value questioned, but thought it was a project worth showing off. “I’m pretty sure people are hungry for this sort of upgrade,” he said.
Councilmember Eric Lammle suggested possibly showing the public how the $3 million project would look in comparison to the $5 million project. Overall he believed staff did an excellent job reducing the project while maintaining the city’s concept. “I think this represents a significant compromise,” he said.
Elder and Lammle will vote for it, I can’t think of anything they’ve ever voted against.
With an affirmative go ahead from the council, staff will work to nail down prices before presenting the proposal to the public. Once a finance plan is complete and resident feedback is collected, staff will return to council for approval. Staff anticipates a public meeting in January. Stantec hoped to begin bidding for the project in February but with the change in plans and need for a public meeting, that will likely be delayed.
Expect everything to go ahead undaunted.