By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer
Owners of businesses on State Street say they’re mostly pleased with the recently finished Streetscape project that is giving downtown Sharon a brighter look.
A few of them criticized the design of ramps built at several corners for use by handicapped pedestrians, but business owners generally like the crisp new look of the shopping district after its million-dollar makeover.
Contractor S.E.T. of Lowellville, Ohio, installed new streetlights, repaired and replaced sidewalks, removed dead or damaged trees and replaced them with new ones to add color and shade as they grow taller over the years.
The $1.1 million project was funded almost entirely with state grants. The city’s costs added up to about $200,000 to pay for the design and inspection of the finished work.
Rita Ways, who manages her husband Dr. Joel P. Ways’ optometry business at 89 E. State, echoed what other business owners all said.
“I love the lights,” she said of the lamp posts with 80-watt LED luminaries whose white light gleams in brilliant contrast to the softer yellow glow of older-style sodium-vapor lights that still illuminate the nearby banks of the Shenango River.
“I love that we have lots of light and I love how the street signs look,” Ways said. “They have old-fashioned lettering and the letters are nice and big. I think that was well done.”
Ways and others expressed worries about access ramps that rise from the street in a low, wheelchair-friendly slope that leads to the sidewalk. Some of the ramps have perpendicular edges rising several inches from the sidewalk. The slope creates a ledge along the ramp that Ways said is likely to cause pedestrians to trip, especially when snow accumulates on sidewalks.
The ramp outside the former Wave restaurant at Dock Street narrows the width of the sidewalk and the one outside Penn-Ohio Cigar at Vine Avenue and East State has a railing because of the height of remaining old sidewalk beside the new, lower ramp to the corner.
City Manager Scott Andrejchak said the ramps’ design followed specifications in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and they were approved by both the city’s engineering consultant and PennDOT and inspected after construction by PennDOT.
“There’s more to an ADA ramp than you might think at first,” he said of the designs that went through many revisions before they were built. “A ramp has to have the right slope and a level landing. In order to fit those exacting requirements in a certain amount of space along the sidewalk, it’s really an engineering job.”
Harmon Lustig, whose Outdoor Army Store at 47 E. State has been a Sharon mainstay since 1946, said completion of construction presents an opportunity for the city to turn its attention to a persistent problem with parking.
People who work downtown – and who should be parking in the free lots or parking garages off State – are instead abusing the one-hour-limit on spots outside his store and others.
“I think the police department could make some money if they ticketed some of the people working downtown who park all day,” he said.
Farther west, Toby Abrutz said the appearance of the street has been greatly improved outside his Korner News Stand at Porter Way but it remains to be seen whether the makeover will attract new shoppers.
Most of his customers who buy magazines, tobacco products, lottery tickets and newspapers live nearby or work downtown during the day.
Beth’s New Beginnings, a store selling secondhand clothing and kitchen and household items began operations in March. As the owner of one of the newest businesses, Beth Howard said she is pleased with the look of her block of West State between Water Avenue and Main Street.
“I feel honored to be here,” she said of her location across the street from Sharon City Centre.
Andrejchak said he’s encouraged to hear that some businesses plan to decorate planters for Christmas. He added that keeping the street looking its best will require cooperation between building and business owners and the city.
“Now that it’s done, we have to plan for maintenance,” the city manager said. “The brick-stamped concrete has to be maintained properly. In the winter, there’s an accumulation of salt and it gets into cracks and the stamped brick sections. We have to hose all the sidewalks every spring to add life to the concrete. Maintenance is a big deal.”