BEAUFORT — Town staff met with local business owners Dec. 12 to discuss proposed changes the town is exploring for the 100 block of Turner Street.
Town Engineer Greg Meshaw provided business owners with information about the proposed changes in order to gauge their opinions.
“We believe that the plans were well received by those who were at the December 12th meeting,” Mr. Meshaw said.
He added pedestrian safety was an emphasis of the meeting with business owners.
Mr. Meshaw described plans to “move most, if not all of the bike racks from their currently planned plaza locations to a ‘bump out’ pedestrian refuge area in the street.
“The bump out area would likely be defined and protected by new curb and gutter. We envision the bump out area being about the size of a parking space. The bump out would also probably be located at the base of one of the proposed steps, thereby incorporating the street pavement area currently proposed for pavement striping.”
Other plans include additional brick paving. Current installations like decorative trees would remain. Concrete steps and handrails are some of the other proposed additions, according to the preliminary plans.
The 100 block of Turner Street is home to a number of businesses, including Beaufort Home & Furniture, the Royal James Café and others. While most of the businesses didn’t send representatives, those that did said they felt the meeting was productive.
“I was pleased with what the town talked about,” said Andy Birmingham, owner of Beaufort Home & Furniture, “making Turner Street more accessible for people walking up and down the sidewalk.”
Sidewalk accessibility has been a key point of interest in recent months, thanks in large part to residents like Peter Crumley, who has raised concerns over the need for accessibility for disabled pedestrians. In October, Mr. Crumley joined Beaufort Parks and Recreation Coordinator Rachel Johnson, town officials, fire and police personnel in a pedestrian advocacy demonstration at the intersection of Turner and Front streets.
Mr. Birmingham said the talk with town staff also touched on convenience for visiting motorists.
“There are some holly shrubs that are along there which aren’t not very people-friendly,” Mr. Birmingham said, adding that people getting in and out of their vehicles have to avoid the shrubbery. “I think we all agree that we need to get something in there that is more attractive.”
Mr. Meshaw said beautification was another point of discussion. A number of the meeting’s participants suggested the town could use existing water infrastructure to care for the proposed vegetation.
Mr. Birmingham agreed.
“Overall it’s just helping the appearance of the town,” he said. “We’re just making the town look better.”
Kim Bell hopes the finalized plans will also make the town safer. The owner of the Inn on Turner, Ms. Bell wants safety, particularly as it applies to speeding, to be considered. She said she is a big advocate of speed calming devices, such as speed bumps.
Although Ms. Bell’s business is not located within the 100 block of Turner Street, the project’s proposed location, she feels it could affect businesses in other parts of town.
Susan Sanders, the owner of Harbor Specialties and president of the Downtown Beaufort Development Association, applauded the town for pursuing changes.
“We definitely need to fix that sidewalk, it’s just dangerous,” Ms. Sanders said. “The gradient from where you park to where you have to get up on the sidewalk, it definitely needs to (be altered). And I think everybody agrees with that.”
Liz Kopf, owner of Turner Street Market, does.
“Business owners are excited about these improvements,” Ms. Kopf said. “It is a gateway street into downtown. I think the town has done a fabulous job of listening to our concerns.”
Mr. Meshaw said the next step is to possibly incorporate the business owners’ suggestions into the project.
“The suggestions received during the meeting are to be discussed with the Town’s landscape architecture consultant in the coming days,” Mr. Meshaw wrote. “This discussion should lead to finalization of the plans during early to mid-January. Once the plans are finalized, the timeframe for advertisement of the project for construction bids will be determined.”
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 201; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.