Top 10 Stoies of 2013: Renovation project gives mall new life
WINCHESTER — The heart of Old Town Winchester got a new look and feel in 2013.
A project to replace aging water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure under the Loudoun Street Mall turned almost all of the 1,600-foot pedestrian walkway into a construction zone for the first four months of the year.
But when the workers were finished, they left behind an attraction that again became a showplace, regularly drawing throngs of people from the region and beyond for special events or just weekend visits.
City officials hailed the mall as “Winchester’s living room” and invited visitors in.
The local leaders even hired a special-events coordinator to plan gatherings aimed at introducing people to or reacquainting them with Virginia’s first pedestrian mall.
“I’m just speechless right now. I’m just thrilled, happy,” city resident Joe Wingfield, 55, said during the rededication ceremonies on May 17. “I think [the new mall] is going to draw a lot of people down here.”
From an aesthetic standpoint, the project did much more than scratch the surface. It added to it:
North, south and center gateway entrances were installed, with water features on either side of the north and south entrances.
Self-cleaning public restrooms were added.
A splash pad water fountain became a popular gathering place for children.
New streetlights lined the walkway.
Tree planters doubled as benches to provide more places to sit and enjoy the activity along the mall.
HRI Inc., a State College, Pa., company with an office in the city, led the project and drew rave reviews for helping business owners and shoppers to tolerate the disruption and to appreciate the finished product.
Just as importantly, the firm completed the construction in less than four months — in time for Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival crowds to see the new and improved downtown core — and the landscaping took just a few more weeks.
The company was paid $7.1 million for its efforts.
The renovation work was planned by the Old Town Development Board, city Public Service Department staff members and outside contractors.
The infrastructure replacement work was funded by water and sewer revenue bonds; $700,000 from special downtown taxing districts will pay for the major new above-ground amenities.
The original mall project was completed in November 1974 — the attraction will turn 40 years old next fall.
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org