Transformation often is not pretty.
The city of Stone Mountain is in the midst of such a transformation that is causing traffic tie-ups, disruption in business and revenue loss, but officials predict that when major construction is complete in a few months it will be worth it.
Major road and sidewalk work is well under way on its streetscape project, which will give the city a new look.
“It is going very well, very well,” said Stone Mountain City Manager Barry Amos of two blocks of Main Street that is now a long construction site with dug up sidewalks, orange safety cones in the streets, yellow caution tape, detour routes and fewer on-the-street parking spaces.
When the work is complete, downtown Stone Mountain will have new wider sidewalks with brick and granite pavers and granite curbs. A new pedestrian median is also being built that will be landscaped. Streets are being resurfaced, and utility lines are being buried underground. Lighting, benches and bike racks round out the project, which will cost $1.6 million for phase I.
Steve Wells, executive director of Stone Mountain’s development authority, said that second phase will bring similar improvements to Manor and Poole streets, with construction expected to start on that phase in a year to 18 months. Funding for the project comes from the Georgia Department of Transportation and MARTA offset funds.
“It will not only change the look of Stone Mountain, but it will increase pedestrian safety,” said Amos.
Business owners in downtown have the option of having an awning installed over their storefronts, with half the cost paid by the owner and the remainder reimbursed through the city’s Main Street Program.
Karen Parker, owner of Mama Mia’s Italian Restaurant on Main Street, is ecstatic about the changes.
“I think it’s great,” said Parker. “It’s going to bring the city back to where it was. It will be pretty again and fresh. People will love it when it’s done.”
Parker’s eatery—a family-owned business—has been a Stone Mountain institution for 32 years. the business has had ups and downs, but the last few years have definitely been the worst of times, according to Parker who attributes it to the overall downturn in the economy.
Despite the construction outside her door, which she is optimistic will be complete by the end of April, Parker said the restaurant has not been negatively affected by the construction since Mama Mia’s currently is only open for dinner.
“By the time we do open, the streets are usually open again,” she said.
Last week part of Main Street was blocked due to construction and a long line of cars snaked along Manor Drive and Second Street, creating a rare mid-afternoon traffic jam in Stone Mountain.
“We realize this construction will adversely impact existing businesses,” said Amos. “Once the streetscape is finished, we feel that the inconvenience during construction will be well worth it.”
Work began on the project on March 9 but constant rain resulted in delays. Now work is progressing rapidly, according to the city manager who’s anticipating completion in June.