ELIZABETHTOWN — In the past five years, downtown Elizabethtown has undergone quite a transformation — from a not-unattractive-but-pretty-average town, aesthetically speaking, to a warm and inviting center of commerce for Bladen County residents and visitors.
The work isn’t over yet, though.
Two weeks ago, Elizabethtown Town Manager Eddie Madden met with an engineering firm to discuss a schedule for the next phase of the Downtown Revitalization Project — the burial of utility lines on West Broad Street from Pine Street to Marvin Street, or roughly from Johnson’s Law Firm to Melton’s. Also included in the project will be decorative lighting, sidewalk replacement, and landscaping.
“The next phase is much simpler than the first,” said Madden. “The first involved replacement of water and sewer and storm drains — this work is not as involved.”
Madden said the town is very close to going out for bids for the $1.65 million project, and he hopes to do so by October and begin construction in January. The USDA loan requires the town to advertise locally and regionally, and the last phase was awarded to a firm in Charlotte.
“We’ve been anticipating this now for eight years, and it has been in the planning phase for a number of years,” said Madden. “We’re finally ready to begin construction, and I believe this work will complement what has already been done.”
Since 2011, utility lines on West Broad Street from downtown to Pine Street and on Poplar Street from Broad Street to King Street have been buried, sewer lines replaced or repaired, landscaping improved, sidewalks beautified, decorative lighting installed, and traffic lights improved.
The town was recently awarded a $94,340 grant from the North Carolina Rural Center, with which the town worked to identify assets and needs in the community in order to stimulate small business development. Madden said that he anticipates the town applying the money — which has been earmarked for downtown revitalization — to the next phase of the Downtown Revitalization Project.
Also in the works for Elizabethtown is the riverwalk project, which is currently in the design stage with Sage Design in Wilmington. The first phase of this project will involve the replacement of playground equipment, renovation of the picnic shelter, replacement of the outdoor amphitheater, improvements to the restrooms, the addition of a disc golf area, walking trails that lead to the river, and a handicap accessible path to a fishing pier on the Cape Fear River. Phase two will involve the construction of the boardwalk itself, which will be eight feet wide with railing and will be handicap accessible from the parking lot to the riverfront.
Madden said he hopes to have the designs in hand and go out for bidding on the riverwalk in November.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.