An aging beauty is getting a major facelift in Liberty, and traffic soon will have an added east-west connection on the south side of the area.
Liberty City Council recently moved forward these two much-anticipated projects. A South Liberty Parkway extension is planned to connect Missouri 291 Highway to Interstate 35. Improvements around the historic square near the courthouse will be the first major public works changes to that area in more than 30 years. Taxes to support both of these plans were approved by voters in November of 2014.
The historic square is expected to be under construction by mid-May. Business owners are hoping changes will help grow the economy for the next generation.
During a March 7 status and design update on the historic square project for the Liberty City Council, Assistant Public Works Director Andy Noll explained the process for that project should take about 22 weeks. Bidding will move forward in March and April, with a view toward City Council’s final approval in late April.
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If the project goes as planned, construction should be completed before the Christmas shopping season. The age of the area makes the challenge of planned sewer and infrastructure upgrades unique.
“When you start digging in an area that’s almost 200 years old, you just never know what you’ll find when you start digging. Hopefully, we’ve done everything we can to mitigate that,” Noll said.
Some of the infrastructure improvements under the square are known to date back to at least 1908. The area has been used since the 1820s when the city, which is the second oldest incorporated town west of the Mississippi River, was settled.
The main goal of the redesign is to create a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere. This includes widening the sidewalks along the retail side of the square in order to provide for outside seating or other exterior amenities. The streetscape plan also adds trees and some walls which will be intended for seating.
Gordon Hadden, a downtown property owner who is a part of the Historic Downtown Liberty, Inc. group, says the business and property owners around the square are looking forward to a re-birth of the area. The last major redevelopment of the square was in 1985.
“We’re kind of frayed around the edges. We need something new,” Hadden said. “We needed to get our living room cleaned up and modernized and made appealing.”
Hadden explains the street-scaping is part of a larger plan to promote the square and build a new platform for economic development.
“There are 50 million baby boomers who want to spend their money on experiences,” Hadden said. “In order to compete in our metropolitan market, we have to create an environment where people want to come and have experiences.”
Another project expected to spur economic development in the area received final contract approval from City Council at the March 7 meeting.
Voters approved funding for the $23 million road extension in November of 2014. The project will take South Liberty Parkway from Withers Road east through currently undeveloped areas to Missouri Highway 291 at Seven Hills Road.
While the project is not expected to be open to vehicular traffic until autumn of 2017, some parts of the project, including some waterline work, will soon be visible on Withers Road.