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Council hears pitch for Arch Street project

DEMOPOLIS-As the city of Demopolis begins to take a closer look at some of the possibilities for the Arch Street River Walk project one of the first steps is finding a company to perform some of the initial duties. Monday night representatives of the engineering and architectural firm Barge Waggoner, Summner and Cannon, attended the first council meeting of August to discuss some of the ideas their company would bring to the table.

Based in Nashville, but have been in Alabama for some time. Worked on projects such as Decatur Riverwalk and Nashville. Currently working with Department of Transportation on the expansion of Highway 80.

David Fuqua

“We are interested in your town and interested on working on the project,” Fuqua said. “We think this project could really be big for the city and we would like to be a part of it.”

Steve Fritz, an architect with the firm said he had 25 years of experience doing projects of this type across the Southeast. Fritz said in his experience he always tried to let the project bring out the personality of the city.

“We always try to do a project based on the characteristics of the community,” Fritz said. “We don’t want to do a cookie cutter project. We look at the history and other traits to come up with a project idea.”

Fritz said they had done many federal projects including several parks and greenway projects and understood the guidelines. Fritz said normally when they complete a project of this nature they usually saw the area grow exponentially.

“One of the things we have seen when people go up to the riverfront with a project is a lot of spin-off activity,” Fritz said. “That seems to happen a lot. You see a lot of riverfront landing, hotels and other businesses that seem to come with projects like this.”

Fritz said they also liked to get input from the community. He said on a project they had recently worked on in Tennessee they had distributed surveys and other documents to get ideas from the community. Fritz said they get input from the community on most every project they take on.

“We have some techniques we use that are used to build a concensus when we work on a project,” Fritz said. “We structure it to the level of detail necessary and it could be individual interviews or public interviews. We do this on almost every project we do.”

Council member Jack Cooley said in the past a lack of communication had hurt the project.

“One of the greatest detriments to this project has been the absence of communication or bad communication from both sides,” Cooley said.

One of the key concerns of a project such as this is opening personal property to public traffic. Fritz said this was not as big a problem as many people think.

“One of the things that are the worst things for a project like this is that people don’t understand what is going to happen of you put a trail in their backyard,” Fritz said. “They are afraid someone is going to come in and steal something. They are afraid someone is going to come look in their window or that there are going to be people out there they don’t want. Actually, studies done nationwide on this type of project go just the opposite.”

Fritz said the development of the riverfront was important to the city in many ways. He said so far, the city has done a great job of using their public river front property.

“You have done a great job of using your public features on the river,” Fritz said. “In most cities that we go to you can hardly see the river because of the backs of the buildings. They are right up to the river and you can’t even see it until you go over the bridge. You have done a great job in terms of the use of public land.”

Fritz said there were several steps they would have to go through to get the project going. He said they would first look into getting a base map and field surveys. They would then look into permit issues and a master plan. He said they would also have to look at stakeholder input. This would include talks with the Corp of Engineers ADECA and ADEM.

Construction is needed to begin by July 1 of 2006 and Fritz said they had the means and equipment to make this happen.

Bob St. John, another representative of BWSC, addressed some of the issues they could face with the Selma chalk in the area. St. John said he has worked with Selma chalk off and on.

“I have probably worked as much as anybody with it,” St. John said. “The Selma chalk is in areas that are kind of restricted and I have worked with the paper mill and other areas around here where it can be found.”

St. John said how they approach the chalk depends on the location and makeup.

“There are different forces working on it,” St. John said. “There are natural forces like the river and heat. Then there are man made forces like people loading things and dropping things off the side. There are boats coming through. When I do a job like this I have to come out and look at that point and see if there are any natural hazards that might restrict us.”

Fritz said riverfront type projects are some of the most satisfying projects they undertake.

“These are the types of projects that we really enjoy doing,” Fritz said. “They can have such a tremendous impact on a community and coming to see what a positive impact it has had is one of the most satisfying things.”