Two downtown projects – construction of public restrooms in the Market Square Garage and drainage improvements in Strong Alley – are getting underway this week.


The $373,000 five-stall restroom facility will be built in the street-level northwest corner of the garage. The restrooms – which will include a roof, graffiti-resistant paint, topiary screens and LED-lit glass panels that will glow at night – will be easily accessible, adjacent to the garage attendant booth.


Southern Constructors Inc. was awarded the competitively-bid contract, and the restrooms are expected to be open in August.


Meanwhile, improvements to Strong Alley – which runs behind Gay Street and Market Square, between Union Avenue and Wall Avenue – include the replacement of the drainage system within the alley and connecting adjacent building roof drains to the new drainage system. In addition, the alley will be resurfaced, and a 3-foot-wide $40,000 cobblestone walkway will be laid in the center of the alley.


Adams and Sons, the project contractor, is expected to finish the upgrades by mid-summer.


Strong Alley is an increasingly popular walking path for locals and visitors alike because of its large colorful murals, painted by regional artists with the consent of the owners of the buildings.


“These are two new amenities that will be very popular,” said Rick Emmett, the City’s Downtown Coordinator. “The cobblestones and drainage improvements will make Strong Alley smooth and dry, so it’ll be safer for pedestrians. And, of course, people will be very happy to have attractive and comfortable restrooms. There are so many family-friendly events and festivals on Market Square, this was definitely needed.”


There are more downtown improvements to come: Two stretches of West Jackson Avenue – a section between World’s Fair Park and Gay Street, and another section east of Gay Street through the center of the Old City – will be streetscaped, starting this summer and wrapping up in 2017. The work will include building new curbs and sidewalks, planting trees and continuing to bury utility lines, but the projects also will include significant subterranean utility upgrades.


Replacement of a section of damaged sidewalk running between Henley Street and the City-owned parking lot on West Jackson is nearing completion. Replacement of another section of damaged sidewalk near The Daniel, a redevelopment project that includes lofts and retail space, is expected to begin May 31.