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Streetscape construction concerns easing
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MONROE - Trepidation about upsetting downtown business to accomplish a major street remodeling project is settling down in the Monroe Main Street committees.

"We're in very good shape," Monroe Main Street Director Barb Nelson reported Monday to the Monroe Main Street Board of Directors.

Nelson attended the National Main Street Conference in Chicago March 1-4 and had a chance to talk with several members from other cities that have gone through the same ordeal.

The early steps of getting the information out to the community and getting input from citizens was a important part of the design, project approval and success, Nelson said.

"We've done everything right," she told the board. "I always say I learn from my mistakes, and now I can learn from theirs."

Businesses are getting their "streetscape survival manuals" and brochures for customers questions.

Construction, once feared to be a hindrance to downtown business, actually is becoming the drive behind some events.

Monroe Main Street is seeking closer ties with Monroe Chamber of Commerce and Industry for events, many of which they want to hold downtown.

"We are combining forces," MCCI director Pam Christopher said.

Christopher reported on her visits with Nelson and the Monroe Main Street Promotion Committee, where ideas for events in conjunction with the construction are beginning to form, such as a parking meter party and an end-of-summer beach-type party.

Concerts on the Square will endeavor to remain on the north side, where they have been in the past.

Nelson also said community support and event sponsorships are coming in, with many first-time donors.

Chairman David Riese said he is encouraged by the first-time donors.

"It's natural to think of moving events off the Square at a time like this," he said. "But it's just the opposite. Keep it on the Square. Move more events into the construction area."

Bids for replacing the water mains around the Square are due to come in Monday, signaling the start of a full summer of reconstruction for Monroe's downtown.

Fehr-Graham & Associates, the engineering firm overseeing the project, expects the water mains to be replaced before bids go out for the first phase of the main project, sidewalk replacements, in early April.