July 12, 2013 10:19:38 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
The finishing touches are being applied to an overhaul of Catfish Alley, and a ceremony to unveil a monument which honors the history of the street is tentatively planned for late August, city planner Christina Berry said.
Berry said the project was initially set to be completed in mid-July, but landscaping for a park area and the installation of festival lights has yet to be completed. City officials also want to work more with the Catfish Alley committee on the ceremony itself.
Meanwhile, renovation of the Old Highway 82 bridge is still on schedule for completion by its deadline at the end of this month, she said.
Changes to Catfish Alley included street and sidewalk improvements, curb repairs and a mural displaying the vitality of the area in multiple eras. In a previous Dispatch report, city officials said the sidewalk and street improvements were needed not only to bring the area up to aesthetic standards but to improve accessibility and come into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.
Berry said there haven't been any major setbacks in the project's progress, nor has weather or funding been a factor. From a project management standpoint, the initial estimated completion date was likely earlier than it should have been, she said.
Both Columbus Light and Water General Manager Todd Gale and city engineer Kevin Stafford reported their departments' portions of the projects were running on or slightly below what was budgeted.
The mural, which was completed last month, was painted by Mississippi University for Women art professor Alex Stelioes-Willis and two students in a special topics mural painting course. It depicts the south side of the street looking north, with the people in the foreground representing how the area would have looked in the 1960s and 1970s and those in the background from earlier in the 20th century, he said.
Berry said in a previous report the goal was to recreate the festivity of the area in its prime.
"We're wanting to make the street more festive-looking. We'd like to install festival lights from building to building from Main Street to about where Front Door Back Door is, and we're hoping to get some buy-in on that," Berry said. "Catfish Alley has a lot of history and was a place where a lot of people came and had a good time, and we want to make it look as such. Catfish Alley is an important aspect of downtown Columbus and we want to make sure it's preserved, that we recognize that area and its contributors. It's reflective of the entire community to make sure that history isn't lost."
The Old Highway 82 bridge has been undergoing renovation since last year. The $2.5 million restoration was funded by a grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation that could only be used for the purpose of rehabilitating historical structures, plus matches of $133,000 each from the city, Lowndes County and the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau. Officials have not announced a ribbon-cutting date but said that will likely happen early this fall.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.