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Block 34 parking and road closures explained as cityscape changes

In World
February 25, 2024

Feb. 24—Looking around Stillwater at its projects, it is clear the city is undergoing growth and change at a faster pace, transforming from its small city, college town and rural area existence to a place that is urbanizing and modernizing, while still very much keeping the “feel” and history that is Stillwater.

From the beginning of Block 34 construction this month, to continued airport development, to Envision Stillwater (the two-decade strategic comprehensive plan for growth), to ramping up economic and business development opportunities, to the Washington School getting started with its historic rehab, as well as the new animal welfare building being built, these are but a few projects in progress.

Change can be difficult for some people. Especially if it causes inconveniences in an already harried life filled with busy schedules, technology that changes every day, daily logistics, nagging worries and just the grind of life.

The City of Stillwater is taking that into consideration for its residents, visitors, students and private property holders as construction begins on many of these new infrastructure and building designs.

Specifically this week, City of Stillwater City Engineer Candy Staring and Transportation and Drainage Engineering Manager Travis Small took some time to explain in more detail what construction on Block 34 means for parking and road closures, and offered a general explanation on how the City handles construction processes once shovels go in dirt.

The reality of a really big project means that not everyone will be happy with what’s going on where they are in relation to the construction, or where they need to travel or park, but can’t, Staring said.

And unfortunately, some people will be more impacted than others, she said. The upside of construction is that it’s temporary, and eventually it will be completed before moving on to the next section.

“For one thing, when we put out a contract, we give them (the contractors) constraints on how much time they are supposed to spend working in one area. And we decide with them their specific schedules in each area they work on according to the overall schedule,” she said.

In the area of Block 34, all parking where the venue will be is gone forever, she said.

“We are affecting residents for sure with the construction, whether trips through the area or the people who are accustomed to parking ‘on block,'” she said.

“We expect the project to complete in July 2025 — the park, the storm sewers, adjacent roads and utilities, the infrastructure,” Small said.

While parking on the block may be gone, there is still parking on side streets, or “off block” parking. Parking areas all around the block will be intermittently closed — and opened back up — while construction goes on, Small said.

Eventually, Block 34 will have parking all around it, Staring said.

Duncan Street, to the west of the construction site, inbetween 8th and 9th Avenues is shut down completely for now, Small said.

Parking will not be opened up in that area at all for the duration. This area will be used as a “staging and storage” area for the builders there.

The Stillwater Community Center, to the west of the closed Duncan Street, is among the most impacted.

“Though we worked with them ahead of time to make sure that is all taken care of for their needs,” Staring said.

As for residents who live in that area and need road access to homes, Small said, the construction crews and the City will have to be diligent in getting the road closure schedules out to people who live there.

Staring said they sent out letters to immediate areas affected by construction at the groundbreaking and will continue to do this as construction goes on.

At other points in time, all streets surrounding the block will be closed intermittently, perhaps Husband to the east being one of the soonest, Small said.

“People will have to detour around that and, at times, on other side streets until construction is complete,” Small said.

“We know we are impacting people and businesses,” Staring said. “But in designing the project and the schedule, we’ve tried to minimize the impacts as much as possible.”

Staring said the City, on the day of the groundbreaking of Block 34, issued the contractors a “notice to proceed: when they started “Day One” of field work.

“They have 480 days (from Feb. 7) to get to substantial completion,” she said. “Keep in mind delays can come from all kinds of unknowns, from weather to change order processes to other significant events.”

Of note, Small said, there will be storm drainage and sewer construction from 8th to 12th Avenues on the west side of Duncan, and storm drainage and sewer installed on the outside of Duncan between 9th and 12th Avenues.

“The public should expect traffic deterring enclosures along Duncan in those areas, and people will not be able to have access where that is happening, which includes parking,” Small said.

The storm sewers and infrastructure reconstruction (utilities, lights, paving) are not being completed specifically for Block 34 — these are projects that the City has had in planning for years.

However, the construction of the new venue makes for perfect timing for what City engineers identified years ago as the need for new and replacement drainage pipes, detention ponds, repairs to the storm sewers and neighborhood drainage projects addressing flooding issues and runoff in these areas.

Staring and Small said businesses will be minimally impacted, but Staring said her impression from local business owners is that they are pretty excited as Block 34 promises the increase of numbers of people coming to this part of the city.

“There are a couple of new restaurants and buzz about this area with this change,” Staring said.

“We just hope they (the people of Stillwater) will be patient with us while we create this fantastic park. It will be the gem of the city,” Staring said. “We have nothing but excitement in starting and having it be built. We are pumped for sure.”

Stonecloud Brewing Company opened its Husband Street location in 2022.

“As far as the construction goes, I’m sure there are going to be frustrations. But those will only be temporary, and we are looking at the positivity that Block 34 is going to bring to the area that will make it all worth it,” said Matt Sullins, general manager of Stonecloud Brewing Company in Stillwater. “We’ve got a lot of construction going on around us, not just from the City, but luckily there is enough street parking, so it’s not been a deterrent so far, and people are still coming in.”

For anyone concerned about parking and road closures, there are several ways to find out where access is, and is not.

“In general the City shows all parking on its website,” Small said. “They can also come by City Hall to get a map to find out where parking is located.”

If the work puts people in a pinch for parking, or they have questions or concerns, they are asked to call the Community Development office at 405-742-8220.

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