Cameron Boydston and a group of workers were busy early Monday, making final measurements before beginning with the first cuts in the concrete to begin the Downtown Streetscape project.

“We’re trying to get it all laid out,” said Boydston, project superintendent for Built Right Construction.

Chain-link fencing has been installed on the north side of Choctaw Avenue, between South Main Street and First Street, for Phase 1 of the four-phase project. The first phase includes extending the sidewalk farther into Choctaw Avenue and building bicycle pathways. When completed, the sidewalk will include additional pedestrian space, as well as the designated pathways for bicyclists.

New waterlines and infrastructure for stormwater runoff will be included as part of the overall project. The new waterlines were designed to help add water pressure for sprinkler systems for downtown businesses as well as apartments and lofts which may be added to second-floor levels with the aim of making downtown McAlester a designated living area.

Also included in the Streetscape project are plans to add landscaped areas with trees, flowers and other greenery, along with construction of a permanent stage at the intersection of First Street and Choctaw Avenue.

While parking places adjacent to the sidewalk on the north side of Choctaw Avenue from South Main Street to First Street have been blocked for Phase 1 of Streetscape, motorists and pedestrians will still have access to the businesses and banking through open gates on the chain-link fencing.

One of the open gates still allows motorists on Choctaw Avenue to pull into the Bank of Oklahoma Drive-Thru lane. The other open gates allows Choctaw Avenue motorists to drive into the parking lot area for businesses such as the Medical Spa and Downtown Nutrition.

At some point during Phase 1, gates allowing motorists to enter the two sites will have to temporarily be closed. Plans are for that work to be quickly completed, Boydston said.

Asked how long it will take to complete all four phases of the Downtown Streetscape project, Boydston said “We’re looking at four weeks per phase.” After completing the first phase of  South Main Street to First Street, plans are to cross the street and begin work on the north side of Choctaw Avenue, from South Main Street to First Street, he said.

Hopes are to have the entire Downtown Streetscape project completed, before the holiday shopping season gets into full swing.

“We hope to be done by Thanksgiving, if the weather will treat us right,” Boydston said.

City councilors voted in May to award the project contract to the Savanna-based Built Right Construction after councilors present agreed to fully fund the project at $669,583 — higher than the $507,000 the city originally budgeted for the Downtown Streetscape project. Mayor John Browne called the special meeting to seek the needed additional funds.

The option accepted by councilors called for using $82,185 in city infrastructure funds, another $67,480 in fees collected for the city’s storm water funds and finally, another $11,538 from city tourism funds for a total of $161,203 in additional money for the project.

Prior to the final allocation, significant portions of the total project funding were previously approved by the city and other entities including the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Puterbaugh Foundation as well as others.

Although rain and storms moved through McAlester last Thursday, the weather broke and the clouds gave way to sunshine in time for groundbreaking ceremonies for the Streetscape project.

A poll of downtown merchants conducted by McAlester Main Street indicated a majority of them preferred to see the project conducted during the summer months, prior to the Christmas shopping season. That’s the aim of Built Right Construction as well.

“We’re excited we’re getting started,” Boydston said Monday.

“We’ll do this right — and quickly.”

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com