The alley is dark and dirty. At times, a stream of filthy water trickles through broken glass and muck, and the walls are tagged with spray paint, marring a colorful mural that litters the ground as the plaster crumbles.
The alley is only a few yards long but it feels like another world at night, especially when you emerge onto Pine Street and into the light and crowds. Sometimes I imagine a troll hopping out of the shadows with pants sagging just above its knees, its ass covered only by plaid boxer shorts – and it wants a few bucks for cigarettes.
This is the alley that leads from Pine Street north to Culton. Lit by a single street light at one end, it is as uninviting as it is seedy. Up the stairs, the alley leads to a parking lot, which looks nice but there are no lights. And we all know how the trolls like it dark.
Come downtown! Shop, drink! Be eaten by trolls with baggy pants.
Soon, all of that may change. The city of Warrensburg is close to seeking bids for the third phase of the downtown streetscape. The approximately $1 million project aims to fix the water and sewer lines along bar street, along with the sidewalks and street and portions of Holden near City Hall and Washington by the police station.
The crown jewel is a central plaza where the alleys intersect Pine Street.
Bump-out curbs will frame this plaza and the asphalt will be stamped a herringbone pattern and stained with brown and gray earth tones. William Graves, the city’s project manager, called this the arts and entertainment area.
Should be fantastic for festivals, street performers, art shows and post-bar fights.
The project also includes six alternates, or extra projects, if the city can afford them. The most important alternate is fixing up that seedy alley up to Culton Street. Graves said new concrete, also stamped into a herringbone design, will lead to the stairs. The stairs and handrails will be fixed up, and a new set of stairs will connect to the parking lot.
Most importantly, the parking lot and the alley will be lit, giving it that anti-troll glow.
That should help make coming downtown more inviting not only for the bar crowd but for people who want to live there. The idea goes something like this – bring people downtown who care about the place and maybe something special will happen.
Really what we need are downtown residents who aren’t complete knuckleheads who like to chuck beer bottles and break windows.
Anyway, a renewal is coming. And downtown merchants appear mellow in the face of pending rubble. Judging from the mostly quiet crowd Tuesday when the city hosted a project update meeting at Heroes, it appears downtown business owners are ready to roll.
Stephanie Yates, owner of Rudy’s Frame Shop & Gallery, said she just hopes the work doesn’t chase away customers.
“I also know that once it’s done, it’ll be really nice,” she said. “It’ll draw people down and it’ll be something really nice to look at.”
Yates said the fact that the city plans to bust up the sidewalks in segments instead of all at once should help ease the pain.
Unlike the first time.
Many downtown business owners were rather pissed during that first phase several years ago, which the city attempted all at once. The second phase went a little smoother.
This time, with better planning, good communication and some creative marketing plans in store, it won’t be painless, but maybe just a few degrees more bearable.
The work is scheduled to begin immediately after the University of Central Missouri graduation ceremony in May. Then, it’s full speed ahead with a substantial completion date by Homecoming in October.