By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Katy Welch has noticed something different about the customers who flow through the doors of Java Jive in downtown Hannibal.
"You didn't realize how much the old sidewalk sloped," said Welch, who manages the coffee house located at 211 N. Main in Hannibal's historic district. "When (the new sidewalk) finally opened, everyone who walked by looked two feet taller."
Thanks to a sidewalk project that took about 18 months to complete, everyone who strolls around the various shops and stores in the downtown area can stand tall. City officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday for the project.
"We've been trying to get this downtown Main Street sidewalk project done for 14 years," Hannibal Mayor Roy Hark said. "We've been fighting for the 14 years that I've been in office, and it has finally come to reality."
The project included a total reconstruction of sidewalks on both sides of Main in a four-block area from North Street to Broadway. Storm sewers were installed and asphalt was laid on Main in the construction area. Stamped brick crosswalks were laid in each intersection that is now compliant with the American With Disabilities Act.
Brian Chaplin, project manager for the city, said the project cost just under $1 million to complete. It was funded by the Missouri Department of Transportation and city funding.
"It has made a neat look for downtown," Chaplin said. "It was really needed for many years."
The project ran into problems early on when business owners didn't like the original plan of a split-level sidewalk. Chaplin said the street had to be elevated to aid the sidewalk project. The redesign was approved by the Hannibal City Council in April 2013.
Architechnics of Quincy, Ill., designed the sidewalk plan. Bleigh Construction of Hannibal did the sidewalk work, while Bross Construction of Palmyra, Mo., overlayed the street and did other street improvements involved with the project.
Ayers Pottery owner Steve Ayers, Welch's father, has long been an advocate of a new look for the downtown area.
"My dad has been fighting for sidewalks for a long, long time," Welch said. "He travels and does art shows across the nation. I have spent most of my adult life taking images of pretty sidewalks in other towns, uploading those and emailing them to our city manager, our city council and our city planners."
Now Welch can enjoy the new look in America's Hometown.
"It's really improved the view of the street and the overall look of Main Street," she said.