City officials say work on mall is still on schedule
Posted: January 23, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Three weeks after the project began, work along the Loudoun Street Mall remains on schedule.
That was the message Perry Eisenach, the city’s public services director, provided City Council at a work session Tuesday night.
“The project is where we hoped it would be after three weeks,” he said. “We’re really pleased with the effort of the contractor.”
State College, Pa.-based HRI Inc. is being paid $7.1 million to replace underground infrastructure along the 1,600-foot mall, install a new surface and new ground-level amenities. The project’s cost includes $700,000 for public bathrooms, gateway entrances and a splash pad water feature.
Construction work is to be finished by April 30. HRI has until May 31 to complete the landscaping along the 38-year-old walkway.
Eisenach said that barring significantly bad weather, all underground work is expected to be completed by the end of March. Reinstallation of the walking surface will begin the first week of March.
Work also has begun on the foundation for the public restroom, he said.
Council Vice President John Willingham said the downtown business owners he’s talked to are pleased with HRI’s handling of the project.
“The job site’s clean every day,” he said, “and the sidewalk’s kept clean.”
Jennifer Bell, the city’s downtown manager, also outlined promotional efforts under way to encourage people to shop Old Town during the project. They include postcards announcing that mall businesses are open, spreading that message through traditional and social media, and helpful directional signs.
A sip-and-stroll event will be held along the mall on Feb. 9 in conjunction with “The Big Kiss,” billed as Winchester’s effort to set a record for the most people kissing simultaneously, she said. Additional signs are to be installed early next month welcoming people to downtown and encouraging them to shop and dine and return when the project is complete.
The councilors also voted 7-1 to advance a request by the Ali Baba Hookah Bar for a conditional-use permit (CUP) for nightclub use and to modify an existing CUP to extend its hours of operations.
Councilor Les Veach opposed the motion. A final vote on the permit likely will occur at the Feb. 12 council meeting.
A hookah is a water pipe used to smoke shisha — flavored products that may or may not contain tobacco. Hookah bars are popular in many college towns.
Ali Baba opened at 932 Berryville Ave. on June 20, 2011, a little more than a month after a divided City Council voted 5-4 to approve the conditional-use permit they needed to operate.
However, their request for a CUP for nightclub use and a modification of their existing CUP to allow them to serve alcohol was rejected by the councilors on Feb. 14, 2012, on a 5-4 vote. Councilors cited compliance issues at the hookah bar, including offering late-night music without a nightclub permit, in its first nine months of operation as reasons for denial.
The councilors also:
Voted 7-0 with one abstention to advance a conditional-use permit request by Shenandoah Personal Communications LLC to construct a telecommunications facility at the top of the former Taylor Hotel at 119-129 N. Loudoun St. John Willingham abstained because of business ties to one of the partners in the Taylor Hotel project.
Voted 8-0 to advance a resolution authorizing the re-funding of bonds for the Northwestern Regional Jail Authority and authorize a maximum of $1 million for capital projects at the facility.
Voted 8-0 to advance a motion to appoint City Manager Dale Iman to the Northwestern Regional Jail Authority.
Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were President Jeffrey Buettner, Mayor Elizabeth Minor, Vice President John Willingham, Vice-Mayor Milt McInturff and councilors Evan Clark, John Hill, John Tagnesi and Les Veach. Councilor Ben Weber was absent.
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org