Tuesday, July 29, 2014

NES takes down, will not reinstall one of Salemtown's federally funded lampposts after Taylor Place construction

Being a former member of the advisory committee on the Salemtown steetscape project (running roughly from 2006 to 2010), I tend to keep an eye on what has happened to the elements (neighborhood and traffic signs, lampposts, crosswalks and traffic-calming bulb-outs) over the years. I've reported burned out lampposts, consulted with neighbors on how to deal with destroyed crepe myrtles on bulb-outs and picked up decorative traffic signs run down by trucks.

The remaining lamppost at 5th & Hume
So, I noticed this week that when the construction crews building The Flats at Taylor Place started demolishing the curbside along 5th Avenue North, one of the lampposts of our streetscape project disappeared. I contacted the project manager of the new apartments who replied that NES had taken the lamppost away as part of the approved project, which will include new lighting along 5th fronting Taylor Place. I can't find any images of the new complex that include drawings of the new lighting, so I do not know what it will look like. There were no lampposts in the original sketches shown to the local community by the development team in 2012, and they made no mention at the time of altering the Salemtown streetscape during their construction.

Assuming that no other changes are made to the remaining streetscape elements, I cannot characterize the loss of one lamppost in a $500,000 block grant project as huge. Lighting was the most expensive element of all of the renovations made in the streetscape project, so the loss of any of what was approved is still a waste of some federal dollars. And "more lighting" was the most oft-expressed wish from Salemtown neighbors participating in the streetscape information sessions. I hope that NES won't just trash the lamppost but will save as a replacement in case one of the remaining lights is damaged beyond repair.

However, the bigger question looms: does the removal of a publicly-financed lamppost from a public sidewalk to make room for privately-funded lampposts (assuming Metro is not paying for them) at The Flats at Taylor Place signal that every other developer has license and sanction from NES to alter Salemtown's streetscape elements, which were approved by elected representatives of the neighborhood?

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