“As the crow flies, this neighborhood is practically adjacent to downtown, but because there were no direct routes, it has always seemed much further away,” said Josh Hunt, co-owner of Beer Run in the Woolen Mills Pointe shopping center.
Water Street is gaining an extra third of a mile in length as part of the development of the City Walk apartment complex, which is currently filling up with tenants.
“It will be a very walkable extension of Water Street from where it currently veers to the north and turns into 10th Street Northeast all the way to Meade Avenue,” said Alan Taylor, president of Riverbend Development. The firm developed the site in collaboration with Coal Tower Associates LLC.
In January, the City Council invested over $365,000 to ensure the streetscape had amenities including more than 100 trees and 17 on-street parking spaces. The plan was endorsed by the city’s Tree Commission and the PLACE Design Task Force.
There also will be fencing along the railroad to stop pedestrians from crossing.
The south side of Water Street Extended is expected to feature an 8-foot-wide path with the street trees. The northern side will be a standard 5-foot-wide sidewalk with street lighting.
“I am extremely excited for the increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic that should come from the extension and the associated hike and bike path,” Hunt said.
Councilor Kathy Galvin said she hopes the road will be frequented by pedestrians and cyclists.
“It’s a hidden area of the city adjacent to the railroad tracks,” Galvin said. “It will be important to keep it a highly activated and safe-feeling street.”
At the western end, a stop sign will be installed at a new three-way intersection with 10th Street. On the eastern side, Water Street will terminate at a stop sign on Carlton Road, which is a small street that leads to Meade Avenue.
Leon Mullinax, the contractor hired to build the road, said he expects it to be completed by November.
Online leasing materials for City Walk show the extension on a map, even though it is not yet open. The city will need to certify the extension is up to standards before it can be accepted as an official street.
Riverbend Development, which is a minority partner in the City Walk project, also plans to develop about 24 townhomes on the new stretch of road between City Walk and 10th Street. The iconic coal tower will be preserved.
Construction on those lots could begin within two months, Taylor said.
“We have already had a great deal of interest in the homes just by word-of-mouth,” Taylor said. “I am really excited to move it forward, and I think it’ll be a great addition to downtown.”
Hunt said he is concerned about the possibility of traffic congestion due to the at-grade railroad crossing on Carlton Road.
“Traffic currently backs up during peak hours, and with added housing and connecting Water Street, as well as stoppages for the train, I think there is real potential for gridlock,” Hunt said.
Other new developments also are in the works nearby.
Last October, the City Council approved a five-story building at 925 E. Market that could have up to 56 residential units. That’s a block away from the western edge of the Water Street extension. The site plan has yet to go before the Planning Commission for its consideration.