SANDPOINT — As the snows disappear, construction equipment has reappeared along Second Avenue.
The renovation project, slated for completion in mid-May, is designed to promote a more beautiful, navigable section of downtown Sandpoint for residents and guests alike.
“What used to be a really ugly stretch of downtown Sandpoint will now have trees, wide sidewalks and streetlights,” project coordinator and urban forester Stephen Drinkard said. “It’s really going to be a neat situation.”
The new design begins by widening the sidewalks along the street. The revision not only improves the walkability of the street — it also makes room for the new greenery.
“We’ve been trying for years to develop a better method for planting trees downtown,” Drinkard said. “This is one of the big experiments that we’re doing.”
Using the new plan, workers cut a swale along the work site, which they filled with structural soil and hydrogel to form a loose, root-friendly material. Sidewalk concrete will cover that layer, with spaces included to allow for tree placement. According to Drinkard, studies suggested this method will allow urban trees to grow twice as large. The new design also helps manage stormwater by directing it into the swale for the trees to absorb.
“What’s unusual here is that we’re going to plant some trees that haven’t really been seen downtown before,” Drinkard said.
Once construction is completed, workers will plant cherry, tulip and ginko trees along the street. Thirty of the 40 trees will arrive from the Oregon coast.
In the meantime, businesses affected by the construction are adapting as necessary. Owners reported varying levels of inconvenience based on their location and parking needs.
“It actually hasn’t been as bad as last year,” Joe’s Philly Cheese Steak owner Pam Lueck said, referring to the fall phase of the construction.
Brianna Wurtz, Durst Hayden and Jon Bates of Kind Soul Tattoos, on the other hand, have had a tough time ensuring parking for their customers. They now suggest that patrons park diagonally to preserve space.
“People come here to sit for six to eight hours and get a tattoo,” Bates said. “The parking situation isn’t very business friendly.”
For other businesses, it’s only a matter of time before construction reaches them.
“I can’t really say it’s impacted me, but it will when construction moves up here,” 7B Board Shop owner Rory Whitney said. “It’ll look great when it’s done, but the sooner it’s finished, the better.”