COEUR d'ALENE - Despite difficulty getting started, the Centennial Trail corridor through downtown is finally coming together.
"It goes all the way back to the McEuen Park steering committee," Phil Boyd, president of Welch Comer, said Wednesday during a ground-breaking ceremony. "Even back then, they had identified this strong pedestrian connection between McEuen Park and City Park. In addition to that, the corner (Second Street and Front Avenue) has a terrible pedestrian/vehicle conflict."
Boyd said he became passionate about eliminating that safety hazard, and Dell Hatch, also of Welch Comer, was passionate about resolving the pedestrian connection between the two parks.
"The steering committee saw all of that, and the concept advanced through the steering committee," Boyd said. "But it didn't make it as part of the McEuen project."
He said the first time it came up, the City Council decided against closing off Front between Second and Third streets, but Hatch and Boyd persisted.
"We just kept talking about it," Boyd said. "Eventually it came back up and the city decided to close it last year, but they didn't have the money to pay for the project, so it just died again."
Fortunately, Boyd happened to be working with John Barlow, who does consulting work for the Hagadone Corp., on another project and decided to ask if the company would consider doing a joint venture with the city to get the project done.
Barlow brought the proposal to the Hagadone Corp., and it agreed to help.
"So, that is what really got this process started," Boyd said.
Hatch and Boyd got together with former city Parks Director Doug Eastwood, who also is passionate about connecting the parks.
"Then Gordon Dobler took it over after Eastwood retired, and he has taken a tremendous leadership role in this," Hatch said. "He really worked outside of the typical city processes by sitting down with a private property owner to negotiate this."
Once the team was assembled, everything started to fall into place, Boyd said.
"I think people are going to be shocked with how big of an impact this will have," Boyd said, referring to the new pedestrian plaza area on the closed portion of Front Avenue.
"We've referred to that as the Centennial Trail Plaza because the Centennial Trail will move through there on a dedicated route," Hatch said. "But it's really a people's space."
The project is designed to change the pedestrian circulation between the parks. There will also be a new lakefront walkway that will shuffle some of the pedestrian traffic away from the Centennial Trail.
"As you are walking along you will see signs that say 'lakefront walk,' and we think most people will say 'Oh, I want to take the lakefront walk,'" Hatch said.
The total cost of the city project will be slightly more than $1 million, and the Hagadone Corp. has agreed to fund all but $150,000 of that. Barlow said Wednesday the Hagadone Corp. will spend an additional $500,000 on upgrading The Resort grounds.
The project is on an aggressive schedule, with most of the work slated to wrap up by the end of May.
"All of the work to Second Street and along Sherman will be done by Memorial Day, and the Front Avenue work will be done by mid-June," Barlow said.
Cameron-Reilly, LLC, which has been in business since 1982, was awarded the $742,000 contract to complete a majority of the city's work, but the company will also be working on The Resort's portion of the project.
Mike Reilly, owner, said his firm has done a majority of the concrete and upgrade work for the Hagadone Corp. at The Resort and The Resort Golf Course.
He said once the stormwater permits are in place, construction will begin. Reilly said that could happen as soon as Monday.