FLOWERY BRANCH — Festivals, often a big draw for this South Hall city, can be an inconvenience for Crow Realty.
People will park their cars right up to the 1880s-era, bright yellow clapboard house that houses Jerry Crow's business facing Railroad Avenue, narrowly missing the water meter.
"To save just a few steps, they'll pull in anywhere they find an opening," he said, pointing toward a grassy lot the city leases for festivals off Snelling Avenue, across from his business.
Relief could be on its way soon for Crow and a few others, mainly residents, along Railroad Avenue, in the form of a new sidewalk as part of a planned $250,000 street improvement project.
The street, which serves as a main entrance off busy Atlanta Highway into downtown, has no sidewalks now — just grassy areas on either side, made a little tighter for pedestrians because of parallel railroad tracks.
The sidewalk will give festivalgoers and others "a good way to get into town" from the leased parking area, said Crow, whose business has sat at the corner of Railroad and Snelling since 1985.
City Planner James Riker said last week the city is reviewing construction bids ranging from $171,000 to $343,000 for the project.
Once that work is complete, the city will recommend a company to Moreland Altobelli Associates, a Norcross firm that manages the state's Transportation Enhancement grant program, which is paying for the project.
After city officials get a response from the firm, "we'll be able to present a contract to the (Flowery Branch) City Council for construction of the project," Riker said.
"We're hoping that gets done in the next 30 days."
The project, which required a $50,000 match from the city, could take about two months to complete. Riker believes the work should be done before year's end.
"What will happen is ... we'll have new curb, gutter and sidewalk extending (from Main) to Snelling, and then we'll have decorative street lighting to match what we have on (Main Street)," Riker said.
Also, an old sidewalk on Church Street between Main and Pine streets will be replaced.
The city completed a major "streetscaping" effort in February 2008 that involved landscaping, widening sidewalks on the first block of Main Street off Railroad Avenue, installing new streetlights and benches with a historic flavor and adding parking spaces.
That work, financed partially by an earlier state Department of Transportation grant, ended up costing about $488,000.
The city has done some work preparing for the Railroad Avenue project, moving overhead utilities so they don't span the street. Also, it installed a new, larger water line and fire hydrants along the street, Riker said.
Eventually, the city could place banners on the light poles welcoming visitors to the historic downtown.
Overall, Riker believes the improvements should serve the city well.
"We have had some people looking at ... an old, abandoned house (on the street) for redevelopment as a commercial business," he said. "So, we're hopeful that when this project gets done, it maybe will give someone a fresher look at things."
The state receives federal money to administer the Transportation Enhancement program, which is intended to help pay for "multiuse facilities," such as walking and biking trails and paths, street improvements and landscaping projects.
The grant also could cover historic preservation of transportation-related structures and preservation of scenic byways.
Crow said he is looking forward to the project getting under way.
"It should give a good impression," he said. "... It will (add) a nice ambience to the city."
Crow also was pleased to know that the city is planning a beautification project along Atlanta Highway between Chattahoochee Street and the city limits near the sewer plant.
The $50,000 grant will pay for new landscaping, which, according to grant rules, needs to be planted by March 15.
"We have also been actively working with some property owners on Atlanta Highway from Phil Niekro Boulevard (south) to clean up some of their properties," Riker said.