Laurel's revitalization project 'what designers dream of'


On June 29, on open house for Laurel's Downtown Revitalization Project was held at the city auditorium. The open house allowed members of the public to give feedback on the aesthetic aspects of the project and allowed designers and engineers to show citizens the scope of the extensive project.

"The planning work that has gotten us this far has outlined the project limits, project budget, some suggested design ideas, but it really doesn't get down to the nitty gritty of design, so...we're having this open house so that we can test a few design ideas and aesthetic approaches to the amenity spaces," design principal with Confluence, the firm working on the project, Dolores Silkworth said.

Visitors of the open house had access to both engineering plans and design mock-ups. They were also asked to look at idea boards with design elements like street lights, benches, planters and more, and place a green sticker on the concepts that they liked and a red sticker on those they did not.

With a grocery store, city office, post office, medical care, bank, and other crucial businesses all in the same downtown area, Silkworth said the community of Laurel offers a unique project.

"That's what designers dream of," she said.

Laurel's Downtown Revitalization Project will go much further than just an aesthetic makeover. JEO Consulting Group is handling the engineering aspect of the project and they'll have quite a bit of work to do. The height of the sidewalks will be brought down, closer to street level. The median down the center of 2nd Street that runs from Elm to Cedar Streets will be removed. Below street level, there will also be lots of work. New storm sewers will be installed to address drainage issues.

"Drainage is a large component of it, how do we get the water coming to the downtown area out as efficiently as possible, as cost effective as possible," Nathan Boone, project manager said. "Making sure the sidewalks are ADA (and) they're safe, to make sure that businesses are accessible."

The combination of fixing some critical functional problems in the downtown area, and sprucing up the look should highlight the community's unique downtown area, according to Boone.

"All of that combined together creates a very welcoming environment that's safe, minimizing ice buildup or things like that, combined with vegetation with potential brick pavers and the visual aesthetics of it, really creates a solid welcoming environment for the downtown area," Boone said.

The open house marks an early point in the project, and JEO said to expect at least one more in the process. Work is expected to begin in the spring of 2021, with completion around late summer of the same year. Right now, the priority is creating solid project plans that the community, revitalization committee, and designers and engineers can get behind.

"I think prioritizing the wants and the needs of the projects in a cost-effective manner is always most challenging for downtown projects," Boone said. "So making sure the community is very happy with the project and making sure it stays within the budget (is the goal)."

For more information, contact the Laurel Economic Development office at (402) 256-9614.