Work to remake the look of Riverside’s central business district kicked off Monday, accompanied by the buzz of a concrete-cutting saw, the echo of men hammering protective barriers around tree trunks and the sight of barricades lining the south side of East Burlington Street.
Saw cutting of the sidewalk started in front of Arcade Jewelers, 51 E. Burlington St., and work will continue west down the block to Longcommon Road before crossing to the north side later this spring and head back east toward Riverside Foods, 48 E. Burlington St.
Parking will be prohibited on the south side of Burlington while work on the sidewalk area continues there. However, according to Village President Ben Sells, a couple of parking spaces on the south side of the street will be made available for Aunt Diana’s Old Fashioned Fudge, 29 E. Burlington St., through Easter, a particularly busy time for the business.
When work crosses over to the north side of the street, parking will be prohibited on that side. Traffic will remain open in both directions on East Burlington Street during construction and there will be continual sidewalk access to businesses.
The village last week sent a mailing to all Riverside residents notifying them of the construction.
On March 11 and 12, members of the Riverside Springs Ahead group, employees from the Riverside Department of Public Works and other volunteers descended on the area to remove and replant perennials from the grade-level beds scattered throughout the downtown area.
The volunteers and village employees ended up relocating hundreds of plants, said Terri Lynne Culloden of Riverside Springs Ahead, who oversaw the operation along with Village Forester Michael Collins.
Culloden said that all of the plants were replanted in other locations in the downtown area, including in Centennial Park, the Visitors Center, near the police department and between the township hall and the library.
In addition, some plants were removed to East Quincy Street and to a new bed near Forest and East avenues. A few native grass plants were replanted at the Public Works Department building in Riverside Lawn.
Culloden was instrumental in getting those hundreds of plants in the ground in the planters that line Longcommon Road and East Burlington Street about six years ago. But the ground-level beds proved hard to maintain.
When the central business district makeover is complete, perennials will be planted in raised beds, which ought to help them survive and thrive, Culloden said.
“We’d lose plants each year with people walking on them, or they’d get graded off by snow plows,” Culloden said. “What we found is that if they’re in raised beds, even if it’s just four inches, they come back year after year.”
Sells, who was among those pitching in for the replanting effort, said he was glad the plants could be reused.
“It would have been sad if we’d have lost them,” said Sells, who also helped push for the 2010 downtown planting plan that brought the plants there in the first place.
In addition to a complete over haul of the streetscape along Burlington Street, the entire length of the street, from Longcommon to Harlem Avenue, will be resurfaced. Weather permitting, construction is slated to be complete by mid-August.