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What's the final tally for Streetscape?

Historic District construction bill now at $11 million
By: Don Chaddock and Laura Newell The Telegraph
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Construction crews have been in the Folsom Historic District for more than a year and delays, combined with cost overruns, have some complaining. The original cost for the Streetscape project, known as Historic District Revitalization, was $8.4 million and was expected to last 14 months. The latest figures have spiked the price tag to $11 million and added two months to the construction timeline. But, according to city officials, the “spike” is actually the combination of the “streetscape” project with the “facade” project — two completely separate items. As the overall Historic District Revitalization project nears an end, Folsom City Manager Kerry Miller said the cost overruns are due to many factors. “The project is on time as envisioned when (originally) bid,” Miller said. “We set ambitious goals for ourselves (trying to minimize the impact on businesses).” He said they had originally hoped to have “substantial” work completed before the holidays. “We got it pretty well buttoned down,” he said. He said a heavy rain year was not anticipated and that caused at least two months of lost work. “Underground work was (also) more (involved) than we anticipated,” he said. According to Dave Nugen, the city’s senior civil engineer, surprises continued to pop up during construction. “One of the biggest challenges is we’re digging up things from the 1850s,” he said. “An example of (surprises) is when we removed the (granite) monuments, we discovered the planters (in the street median) were sitting on the old street, all just in 6 inches of dirt on top of the road.” Assistant City Manager Evert Palmer said other surprises included the old tunnel running under Sutter Street from the Folsom Hotel to the river under Hacienda, the basement under Hop Sing restaurant and reinforcing the foundation around Dorothea’s Christmas at Wool and Sutter streets. “We didn’t know what (issues) they were, but had to deal with them once they were (discovered),” Palmer said. Canopies and façade work ended up costing more than expected, according to Miller. “We’ve spent substantially more … than originally anticipated,” Miller said. “The canopies at Dorothea’s and Folsom Hotel were originally planned as cosmetic and not structural.” Miller said city officials were heavily lobbied to “do it right the first time” and make them structural, allowing the balconies to be used in the future. He said other factors affecting the project’s bottom line include marketing the district, signage and shutting the work down to make way for special events like the Cattle Drive and Folsom Live. Bobbi Eddy, owner of Not too Shabby in the Folsom Historic District, said the price tag increase isn’t shocking. “I’m not surprised that there are cost overruns,” she said. “There was a lot put into the street. For example, there was a sidewalk and (wheelchair) ramp put in front of my store because before it was only asphalt.” Eddy said the loss of foot-traffic has been difficult. “It had a huge impact on all of the businesses (and) it’s been a huge strain,” she said. “I’ve been closed 20 out of the last 25 days. I don’t even have a bottom line anymore because it’s so low.” Despite that, she said she’s optimistic. “I’m looking forward to May 7 with the grand opening celebration and May 14 with Second Saturday to get people down to the street,” she said. “I’ve lived through construction projects before and I knew it would be devastating.” She also doesn’t regret locating her business in the district. “After looking at different areas (to move), I concluded that Historic Folsom was the best location to be,” Eddy said. “There is nothing the city or construction (crews) could have done differently. They have worked very well with us.” Visitor Scott Holbrook often travels from Auburn to enjoy the ambiance of Sutter Street and said he’s watched construction tear down what he loved about the street. “Honestly, I do not like it,” he said. “I really think the addition of a couple of parking spots compared to the loss of the center median is a downgrade. I sit on the Hacienda porch often and have watched the progress (but) I think in the hotter months, it will seem even worse.” He said he’s less inclined to stroll Sutter Street now. “As a visitor, it makes the thought of walking the streets and perusing the shops less appealing,” Holbrook said. “The construction has also been a pain. I’m only a visitor, but I do know at least a little of these funds came from my wallet and potential future dollars to vendors are at stake. Bad move, Folsom.” The trees lining the middle of Sutter Street is something he misses. “That center median green zone was one of the things that made Folsom unique and special,” Holbrook said.