Elizabeth City leaders are moving forward with a project to upgrade the appearance and enhance Water Street and Mariners’ Wharf Park, but with a smaller budget than originally planned.
Grants funded by the American Rescue Plan, signed into law last year by President Joe Biden, were awarded by Governor Roy Cooper in December to 42 local governments in rural North Carolina as part of the Rural Transformation Grant Fund.
Elizabeth City received $641,000, well below the $950,000 that was requested for the project, to address longstanding deficiencies in the walkability and appeal of the Water Street corridor, as well as enhancing Mariners’ Wharf Park to accommodate larger events, according to City Manager Montre Freeman.
The city will put in an additional $25,000 dollars in a voluntary match for the project that is also designed to compliment the N.C. Department of Transportation’s “road diet” for southern Water Street to improve traffic and pedestrian safety.
But with the lower-than-expected funding, a proposal for a permanent, metal-roof amphitheater at Mariners’ Wharf Park has been eliminated due to the cost, while new benches, wayfinding signs, planters, and litter receptacles along the corridor had to be removed due to being ineligible expenses according to the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Elements that remain in the proposed project include:
- Install new sidewalks on both sides of Water Street from Main to Ehringhaus Streets (approximate 1,960 linear feet of sidewalk). This will replace deteriorated/settled sidewalks and add new tree pits to address the corridor’s lack of greenery; appealing brick-banding will also be installed.
- Install a new segment of sidewalk (approximately 190 linear feet) from Main Street heading eastward to connect to Moth Boat Park. No sidewalk exists here; this will enhance access/connectivity.
- Install decorative streetlights where none currently exist.
- Convert the midsection of 106 S. Water Street, at the northern edge of Mariners’ Wharf Park, to a concession area. This property is owned by the City of Elizabeth City and the front portion is used by the Main Street Program, ECDI, while the back portion is public restrooms and showers for boaters. The midsection is currently used for storage.
“Eliminating the amphitheater and ineligible expenses reduces our construction budget to approximately $525,000, leaving $141,000 for contingency, design and construction administration expenses,” according to a memo from city staff to the council.
“While final construction costs will depend on competitive bidding, we believe this project scope is achievable under our current budget,” staff members said.
Following the amendments, City Council authorized the issuance of a Request for Qualifications for design and engineering services for the project.
Construction is not expected to begin until late 2023 or early 2024 at the earliest.