Juneau is about to give Seward Street a $4.58 million makeover.
The city will replace the street's water and sewer lines and install a new storm drain system. All the electrical utilities lines will be laid underground. The city also will erect new street lights with smaller footprints.
To make the downtown street more pedestrian-friendly, the city will widen the street and pave it with bricks. Street corners from Second to Fourth will be expanded. To shelter pedestrians from rain and snow, a freestanding canopy will extend from the Dimond Courthouse entrance to the corner of Third and Seward streets.
The city also will build a 2,250-square-foot park at the same corner, where there will be 27 seats and two chess tables. The city will pave the crosswalk between the Capitol and Dimond Courthouse with granite bricks to match the Capitol's granite structure.
The Juneau Planning Commission unanimously approved the project at its Tuesday meeting.
Commissioner Jacqueline Fowler said the proposed pocket park's architecture should reflect the nearby historic district's, but the commission did not act on her recommendation.
Assembly member Jeannie Johnson said the reconstruction of Seward is vital to rejuvenate downtown.
"Seward Street goes up and down the hill and connects downtown," Johnson said. "The project will make Seward Street more attractive."
The project will be phased in two stages so as not to affect tourist season and legislative sessions.
Phase I starts next spring, covering Seward Street from Front to Third streets. Phase II begins next summer, encompassing Seward Street from Third to Fifth streets. Construction will be done block by block.
Business owners along Seward Street said they are concerned that the construction will inevitably affect their business, but they don't know to what degree.
"Any kind of commotion or construction always affects business. We just have to deal with it," said Claudia Pierce, owner of Hudson's Shoe Store for 16 years.
But she is confident that customers will continue frequenting her shop during construction.
"When they need a pair of shoes, they will seek us out," Pierce said.
Robert Cohen, owner of Capital Records, also has strong faith in his customers.
"My loyal customers will endure the slight inconvenience," said Cohen, whose store has been on Seward Street for four years. "I am hoping for the best."
Karen Blue, city project engineer, assured business owners that pedestrians will still have access to shops through temporary walkways.