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Cuyahoga Falls -- While work to re-open Front Street to vehicles has occurred for a few months, next week will mark an important transition point.
The conclusion of Festa Italiana on July 23 will be the final event that occurs on the city's pedestrian mall before Front Street is completely transformed into a road where vehicles can pass through for the first time in nearly four decades.
The city had a compressed downtown summer event schedule to accommodate the work being performed.
The Cuyahoga Falls Oktoberfest was moved from September to July and renamed Sommefest. The city also hosted four downtown events (Kids Fest, Be Bop on the Block, First Responders Appreciation Night, Taste of the Falls) in early to mid-summer. The Riverfront Irish Festival took place on its usual weekend in June. The city hosted its final Flicks on the Falls presentation on July 13.
Construction on the south end of the pedestrian mall will start on July 24, according to a city news release.
Kelli Crawford-Smith, CDBG/Entitlement Administrator for the city of Cuyahoga Falls, said the project is expected to be finished within one construction season.
"The majority of the infrastructure will be completed by the end of 2017 with landscaping and finishing work to be completed by the spring of 2018," said Crawford-Smith.
City Council on March 27 approved hiring H.R. Gray at a cost of just under $9.9 million to do the project. H.R. Gray's team for the work includes four subconsultants and two subcontractors. Dirt began moving on the project in a special ceremony on April 24.
The north fountain was torn down in late May, according to Crawford-Smith, who added the ice skating rink will remain downtown and the clock tower will stay in its current location.
A new north fountain will be built in a spot adjacent "to where the former fountain was located to accommodate the new road," said Crawford-Smith.
Though the ice rink will remain downtown, Crawford-Smith noted it "is being redesigned and the city continues to assess the options as to where [it] will be placed."
Additionally, Riverfront Parkway will stay open throughout the construction project, said Crawford-Smith.
Water fountain will close July 19
At the request of Festa organizers, the interactive water fountain next to the amphitheater will close on July 19 and remain shut down for the rest of the summer while the road project proceeds, according to a city news release.
The fountain will be open, weather permitting, each day from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. through July 19. There are other community wading pools in the area. Information on those pools can be found at http://www.cityofcf.com/activity/wading-pools.
"The interactive fountain will be replaced," said Crawford-Smith. "The current one is at the end of its useful life and will be slightly shifted to accommodate the new road."
Car show in different venue this year
The Front Street re-construction has led to the relocation of the Don Sitts Riverfront Car Cruise. The classic car show on Monday nights is taking place in the Weller Court Municipal Parking Lot and the parking lot of St. Joseph's School. The Weller lot is across from the Sheraton Suites hotel next to Fire Station 1 on Front Street. Cars usually arrive at 3 p.m. on Mondays and the show runs until 8, weather permitting.
Commemorative bricks being sold
The city is now selling commemorative bricks that will be installed in a downtown walkway near a new spray fountain that will open next summer. The bricks are on sale until Aug. 11.
"From the very beginning of the Downtown Transformation Project, it has been important to me that the residents and community members have a voice, sense of place, and ownership in our revitalized downtown," stated Mayor Don Walters. "This is our downtown and the engraved bricks will give all of our stakeholders an opportunity to have a commemorative piece of this exciting redevelopment."
Bricks can be ordered by visiting https://ezengraver.com/downtowncfbricks. Proceeds from the sales will fund the purchase of a community art installation in the reopened downtown.
All orders must be placed online via the website. For questions or if assistance is needed in completing online orders, visit the City of Cuyahoga Falls Development Department at 2310 Second St. The Development Department can be contacted by phone at 330-971-8135 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bricks that were purchased for the old spray fountain were inventoried and photographed, according to the city news release. Existing bricks will be used or replicated and incorporated into the area around the new fountain.