Next phase of Warehouse District Streetscape Project begins; merchants remain open for business

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The next phase of the City of Cullman’s Warehouse District Streetscape Project has begun, but residents are advised that the merchants in the Warehouse District remain open for business. While construction is ongoing in front of the businesses, the east and west side shops will both have back entrance access. Some of the stores on the south end are still working on the best solutions. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala.-  The next phase of the City of Cullman’s Warehouse District Streetscape Project has begun, but residents are advised that the merchants in the Warehouse District remain open for business. City Engineer Erica York and Cullman Economic Development Agency Retail & Workforce Development Manager Susan Eller on Wednesday afternoon gave an update on the project’s progress and how the City will help support and promote businesses as improvements continue.

The first phase of the Streetscape Project is in its final stages and work on First Avenue in front of the shops of the Warehouse district is now underway.

“Everybody back here, I think, is super excited about the project,” said Eller. “They have been asking for lighting for years in that area. This will give them that lighting. The street has been cut and they will have a brand new street. The sidewalks are going to be beautiful and be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-compatible. We are actually improving that area so much.”

The project will include new bistro lighting rather than traditional street lights.

Explained York, “Normal street lamps would interfere with ADA. The minimum (sidewalk width) is 4 (feet) but we strive in our zoning to shoot for 5. That’s what we require. If you were to put those big pedestal street lights in, it would take your accessibility to have a sidewalk.”

The bistro lights will be in the first block of the Warehouse District with decorative light posts in the other areas.

York continued, “Our focus today is, let’s keep this end focus in mind and we are going to do our best to keep these stores successful. We want you to shop and support these local businesses and keep the end goal in mind.”

Eller said she has been busy making sure the stores are accessible throughout the project.

“(Property owner) Shane (Quick) actually came over to us and said, ‘Hey, I have an idea.’ So all of the stores have access from the ends or access from the back, on the west side. Shane has got back there and cleaned that up.”

While construction is ongoing, the plan is to have visitors park and walk to the side entrances or through the back entrances of the shops. To remain ADA-compliant, access to the front entrances will remain accessible to those with disabilities.

The first phase of the project, beside the Festhalle, is expected to be finished in the next week or two with the exception of the final topcoat of paving.

Eller said, “Once they finish that, you will actually be able to have car traffic in there.”

That will open up more parking for access to the Warehouse businesses. The City of Cullman has also ordered signage to help visitors navigate the Warehouse District during the construction.

When the project is complete, the center of First Avenue Northeast will have cobblestone stamped concrete and new crosswalks adding to the aesthetics and walkability of the area. New brick pavers have also been added during the project.

York explained, “We wanted it to tie in to some of the other beautifications that we have done. Like (U.S. Highway) 278 and (U.S. Highway) 31- we’ve done the brick pavers there and we wanted it to be the same kind to match for a more uniformed look. The cobblestone idea was we wanted to give it that historic feel, that vintage feel.”

During festivals and events, removable bollards will be placed to block off streets.

While York and Eller did not give a specific date that the project will be completed, they did say they believe the phase reducing access to the Warehouse storefronts is expected to be completed in time for the main holiday shopping season. Currently, there is no parking on First Avenue in the Warehouse District. Parking is available in the Cullman County Museum parking lot, Festhalle and next to Lavish Boutique. Parking is also available on the south end of the Warehouse District.

“That’s not in the front door parking, but we are working on making parking accessible,” said Eller. “The main thing is, we want to help these merchants survive. They are your friends and your family members. There is still access available to their buildings.”

The east and west side shops will both have back entrance access. Some of the stores on the south end are still working on the best solutions.

“We will have signs everywhere to direct you!” Eller said.

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The east and west side shops will both have back entrance access. Some of the stores on the south end are still working on the best solutions.
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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com