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Fillmore parking lot construction begins

Work began Monday on a big construction project in the heart of Alexandria - rebuilding the Fillmore Street parking lot between 5th and 6th Avenue.

Crews are completely tearing up the lot and removing all the pavement and asphalt.

While the construction is going on, no parking is allowed in the lot. That includes customers, tenants and business employees.

Business owners in the 500 block emphasized that the businesses served by the Fillmore lot will be open as usual. Their goal is to keep the parking spaces on the streets around the businesses reserved for customers only.

They advised tenants and their employees to park in other nearby lots, including the lots on the corner of 6th Avenue and Elm Street. Parking at Calvary Lutheran Church, however, may be limited from time to time because of church events taking place.

Parking is also available in the city lot behind Traveler's Inn and the small lot by Douglas County Abstract behind Coldwell Banker Realty.

To minimize the disruption, the city has set a tight 60-day timeline for the project. The completion date is October 31.

Besides providing the badly pitted lot with a brand new surface, the project will drastically change the look of the parking lot with landscaping touches, curbing, lighting, striping, catch basins and storm sewer.

Overhead electric and cable lines will be buried underground and a new watermain will be installed so businesses will have their own independent lines instead of a "daisy chain" configuration running off one line.

The alley will remain a one-way but vehicles will be able to enter or exit every parking row from the alley or from Fillmore Street.

A sidewalk will also be built linking the businesses between 5th and 6th Avenue so shoppers won't have to step into the busy alleyway. The sidewalk costs will be split 50-50 between the city and the assessed businesses.

At a special meeting on September 2, the Alexandria City Council accepted a $422,286 bid for the project from Central Specialties of Alexandria.

The project turned out to be a little more expensive than the city's original estimate of $385,000 but that's because the city decided to replace more storm sewer at an extra cost of $78,720, according to Tim Schoonhoven, city engineer.

Proceeds from the city's storm water utility fee will cover that extra expense, Schoonhoven said.

Besides the parking lot improvements, other work will include $91,915 in utility costs covered by Alexandria Light and Power and $52,255 in private improvements covered entirely by the businesses.

About 90 businesses in the downtown area, known as the Central Business District, are being assessed a little more than $200,000 to pay for the project. The assessments vary depending on the size of their building, how close they are to the lot and how much parking they already provide.