4th Street merchants, visitors ‘can see the changes’


HUNTINGBURG — Customers continue to visit Fourth Street in Huntingburg and are able to easily maneuver through the construction areas to reach businesses there, to Linda Gehlhausen’s delight.

Fourth Street between Jackson and Geiger streets is being redesigned, with the first work being done from U.S. 231 to Jackson Street. That is where Gehlhausen’s business, Gehlhausen’s Flowers and Gifts, is located.

She said foot traffic was slow in the winter months, which is always expected, but has been picking up now that the weather has gotten better.

“Now that the weather is turning, the people are coming out,” she said. “We’ve got people coming into town, now that the weather is nice. And they’re making their way up and down the street, like normal.

“The sidewalks are still open. They can still get through to shop and eat and do everything like they had been.”

Once complete, the new design will include on each side a driving lane and sidewalk; a lane situated between the two will be used optionally as a walking lane, parking area or space for outdoor uses by a business, like seating. Trees and planters will be placed in what is now the parking lane, leaving about three parking spaces between the planters. Businesses will have the option of using part of the sidewalk or the parking lane in front of their business for enhancements like seating.

The design incorporates part of the Heritage Trail, which is a walking and bicycle path that will ultimately connect the north and south ends of the city.

Milestone Contractors of Bloomington is doing the construction work. That started in late January with Phase 1, the east half of Fourth, from Jackson Street to U.S. 231. Phase 2 will be the western half of the street, from Geiger Street to U.S. 231. Phase 3, which is work on the street’s intersection with U.S. 231, will be done in conjunction with the first two phases.

“So far, everything is going very smoothly,” said Rachel Steckler, communications director for the city. “All of the planter boxes and curbs are poured and complete on the north side of that block. They are currently working on the south side, and anticipate those to be done next week.”

The next step in the work will be running electricity to the planter boxes. “The planter boxes will have outlets for people to plug their electronic devices in,” Steckler said.

During each phase, the section of street being worked is closed to vehicular traffic. But pedestrian traffic is still welcomed and encouraged.

Officials put in place an extensive plan to make sure people were aware they could still get through to visit Fourth Street businesses during the construction. Signs were placed to direct vehicles to parking locations. Directional signs were put up to direct pedestrians. Advertisements have been sent out to tell people about promotions.

“They gave us plastic hard hats to give to the kids,” Gehlhausen noted. “People love that.”

City officials worked with Milestone and project designers VS Engineering and Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group to make sure businesses are kept in the loop on construction progress. That includes weekly emails, available office hours at Current Blend and one-on-one meetings for business owners who request them.

“They have been just super at keeping us up to speed on what’s going on, what they’re working on, what’s going to happen next,” Gehlhausen said. “They literally check with us every day to see if there is anything they can do, if we have any questions. They have been phenomenal, both companies.”

Work should be completed on the first phase by early summer. “As of right now, we’re giving the transition between Phase 1 and Phase 2 a June-July timeline,” Steckler said.

Per Milestone’s contract with the city, work must stop and the construction must be closed up, cleared and out of the way for the Huntingburg Christmas Stroll, which is held in early November. And all construction work must be completed by May 2020.

“They have been really working, making huge accomplishments every week,” Gehlhausen said. “We can see the changes.”

Today, people will gather at City Hall’s parking lot, which is next to the construction site, for the first 5-5-5 run/walk of this year. The route will go east and south, reaching Huntingburg City Park, and come back north to end at Teen Outback, where the Association of Latin Americans in Southern Indiana is having a fiesta event at 6 p.m.

“We thought that ending there would encourage people to stay for that event,” Steckler said.

Anyone who wants to participate in the 5-5-5 can just show up; the event starts at 5 p.m.

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