Edmonds businesses take Main Street work in stride

EDMONDS — When the diggers shut down, the tiki torches go up.

Business owners along a dirty and dusty stretch of Main Street in downtown Edmonds are making the best of a major construction project.

“We’re having fun with it,” said Tim Morris, owner of Epulo Bistro at 526 Main St., who is dolling up the new dirt-mound view outside his windows any way he can. “It’s not like I can stop it.”

Expect more pleasant surprises aimed at luring patrons down the torn-up road.

“There may be construction elves. There may be alternative ways of transport. Let’s see, how ambiguous can I get? We’ll see. We’ll see,” said Carol Schillios, owner of the nonprofit Fabric of Life Boutique at 523 Main St.

City officials promise a hard deadline of Nov. 16 for the major overhaul of Main Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, from water line to tree line.

“We pretty much have to hit that target. That’s when we said we’d be finished, and I’m sure the two dozen businesses in that block will be counting the days when we get closer,” public works director Phil Williams said.

Crews work Monday to Thursday, leaving things quieter for the downtown area’s increased pedestrian traffic on weekends.

When the dust clears, the road will be thinner and the sidewalks wider, with new energy-efficient streetlights, trees with tamer roots, flower planters, trash cans, bike racks and more. An 83-year-old water line is being replaced. Overhead power lines will be put underground.

“To do all that on a 600-foot-long block in eight or nine weeks is pretty good,” Williams said.

The project started with unearthing more than a century worth of asphalt and dirt on Sept. 10.

The street used to be called George Street, after city founder George Brackett, and two pieces of concrete are still stamped with the old street name. City staff say the old road pieces could date to 1911.

While tearing up the past and present, the city hopes to be writing the future, too.

The work on this one-block stretch could provide a template for improvements to the rest of Main Street toward the ferry dock, Williams said.

That end result is part of what keeps business owners hopeful.

“We know the ultimate outcome is going to be really beautiful and attract more people downtown,” Schillios said.

Business owners helped the city set the timetable for the project.

They chose a window that falls between the Edmonds Classic Car Show and the holiday shopping season.

Still, Morris, the bistro proprietor, worries about days like Sunday, when his sales were half what they were the year before.

“If it goes into December it’s not going to be good,” he said.

The $1.6 million project is funded with $1.2 million in state and federal grants along with $330,000 from storm and water utility funding.

Improvements should have a small impact on street parking. A mid-block raised crosswalk likely will do away with two spots. Two parking spots also will be reserved for electric vehicles.

During construction, additional public parking can be found one block north at the Public Safety Complex at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Bell Street.

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