Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
With parking on the northern half of the 100 Block of Third Avenue blocked off and the avenue itself sometimes closed as construction crews work on the sidewalks, Havre may be seeing a taste of work scheduled for next year. “It’s kind of like a prelude to downtown next summer,” said Debbie Vandeberg, Havre Area Chamber of Commerce executive director. “It’s like a taste of what’s going to happen.” Construction crews are working to reinforce the structure of the vaults that hold Havre Beneath the Streets, a recreation of Havre businesses and historical locations in the walkways beneath the businesses on the block. The project is part of the Montana Department of Transportation’s project to rebuild U.S. Highway 2 where it passes through Havre as First Street. The Third Avenue work will culminate in replacing the curbs and sidewalks on the street, which is scheduled to be done next year while the avenue is rebuilt. That work is scheduled to go back to the alley on the block. The work being done this week is also restricting access to the avenue and parking on that half of the block. “I know it’s got to be done,” said Scott Young of Norman’s Ranch and Sportswear. “It’s going to have an impact, but what can you do about it?” Young said Norman’s will continue its business as usual, trying to make it as easy as possible for customers to shop there. “We’re even thinking of doing deliveries,” he said. “ You’ve just got to do it for your customers.” The two stores most directly affected, J.M. Donoven Designs in Fine Jewelry and McKay and Ruff Real Estate, will be closed today and Friday while construction crews remove the sidewalks in front of them, exposing open vaults below. The construction crew will then build a bridge over the open span customers can walk across to get to the stores. Sam Weyers, project manager for Nelcon Inc., the construction company doing the Highway 2 project, said the bridge will probably be in place about four to six weeks, until the work building new exterior walls for Havre Beneath the Streets and a ceiling on the vault is complete. The bridge should be in place Friday afternoon, he said. Janine Donoven said her jewelry store will reopen Saturday with a special promotion “I Braved the Bridge” in which she will have T-shirts, drawings and a grand prize drawing in the end, to reward customers willing to come to the store despite the construction. She said the work will be worth it in the end. “(Repairing) this section of sidewalk is something that needed to be done,” she said. Margie Deppmeier, CEO of Havre Beneath the Streets, said the work has changed procedures a bit but the tourist attraction is still running tours. Material for the displays in the area the construction crews are working on had to be moved, but is still visible on the tours. The area on the corner of Third Avenue and First Street where the tours used to come out is being worked on, so the tours have to backtrack and come out the same door they go in. “They get to see the same tour twice,” Deppmeier said. Christy Owens of Havre Beneath the Streets said Wednesday was the first day the tours had to be changed because of the work being done. “We’re still running the same number of tours,” she added. Owens said Havre Beneath the Streets is slightly ahead of its numbers from last year. At the end of July 2006 4,437 people had toured the site, at the end of July this year, 4,572 had gone through. The total number of visitors last year was 7,173, she said. Weyers said that once the work is done on Third Avenue, the process will be repeated on Second Avenue. The reason the project is broken into two parts is to make sure Havre Beneath the Streets will always have access for their tours when the Second Avenue entrance is closed, the door on the corner of Third Avenue and First Street, which normally is the exit for the tours, will be reopened for access to the site. “That’s done with the intent that their business can remain open at all times,” he said. Weyers said the project overall is going well. Work to pour the concrete for the streets on the east end of town, between 22nd and Eighth avenues, is scheduled to begin the end of August, with the paving on the east end expected to be complete by the end of September, he said. Additional work with landscaping and putting up signs will continue once the paving is complete, Weyers added. The center lanes will be poured first, allowing traffic to continue to use the outer lanes in the eastern section of the project, Weyers said. Once that has cured, the outer lanes will be poured. The paving for the western section of the project is expected to start next year in the late spring or early summer, he said. Vandeberg said that the downtown businesses can watch what the Third Avenue businesses are doing during the Beneath the Streets work to help prepare for next year when construction moves to the center part of First Street. The important thing is for businesses to make it as convenient as possible for their customers, she said. It is something all downtown businesses will have to remember next summer when the construction is scheduled to hit that area. To date the work has extended on the eastern end and western end of town, leaving the downtown section from about Montana Avenue to about Eighth Avenue for next year. Vandeberg said businesses will need to remember to save as much parking for their customers as they can, and find alternate parking areas for business workers. “It’s a challenge, it’s an inconvenience and a challenge,” she said. “I hope we’ve educated (the business owners) enough in the last few years about this project that they’re prepared.” Kelly Dixon, owner of The New You on Third Avenue, said she thinks the challenges over the next few weeks will be worth it. “It’s an inconvenience but we know it will be better when it’s done,” she said. “ We’re just going to have to take it one day at a time.” “It’s going to be beautiful when it’s done,” added New You stylist Patty Codden.