East Main makeover starts Monday

Construction on Anoka’s East Main Street will get under way Monday, kicking off a makeover of downtown that will stretch from the Rum River Bridge to Sixth Avenue.

This sign warns drivers entering downtown Anoka on East Main Street that the road will soon be under construction.
This sign warns drivers entering downtown Anoka on East Main Street that the road will soon be under construction.

The first phase will start near the bridge on the eastbound lanes, said Greg Lee, Anoka’s public services director and city engineer. The project will make its way up toward Sixth Avenue, and then back down the westbound lanes until it wraps up mid-October.

Throughout construction at least one lane of traffic will remain open in each direction on East Main Street.

The $5.78 million project will replace everything between the building fronts, including the addition of widened sidewalks, bump outs at intersections to improve pedestrian safety as well as landscaping to create a new look and feel for the downtown.

There are also a list of extras that have been approved by the Anoka City Council, including nearly $1 million in upgrades to the parking lot at city hall, as well as the addition of a mid-block pedestrian crossing between Second and Third avenues.

Each segment has a specific time line for construction. Crews will have three weeks to complete the first segment between the bridge and Second Avenue, followed by another three weeks between Second and Third avenues. From Third to Sixth another three weeks have been allotted.

“The city paid a premium for that,” said Lee on this calculated approach to construction that will protect the businesses while work is on their doorsteps.

The bid for the project came in just above the engineer’s estimate, bucking the trend of typical double-digit savings on many other road projects over the last few years.

Lee has explained that the specific time lines, along with a list of bid alternates, were likely the reason why only two contractors bid on the project and the numbers came in so close to the estimate.


In the works for years

Since 2007 the city and its consultants have been meeting with business owners about the potential reconstruction of East Main Street.

First, the project was put on hold at the request of downtown merchants, so the city went on to rebuild West Main instead.

But now, the business owners are ready for some upgrades.

“The one thing business owners were asking is if we couldn’t take a more surgical approach to construction,” said Dan Coyle, project manager with Kimley-Horn and Associates, the firm that designed the reconstruction project.

Rather than tear up Main Street, causing inconveniences throughout the summer, the city is instead taking an approach where businesses will likely see intense work in front of their shops for a three-week period.

Throughout the project there will be other clean-up items in that area, but the street, parking and sidewalks should be largely complete in front of the stores, said Coyle.

The contractor will also be required to provide temporary pedestrian routes to all businesses at all times.

Construction phasing has also been scheduled to accommodate for the July 14 Anoka Riverfest.

The city hall parking lot will be completed by that point and crews will not be working in the central business district where the majority of Riverfest activities take place, said Lee.

Along with the upgrades to the city hall parking lot, which will enable it to function as a plaza during community celebrations, First Avenue north of Main Street will become a one-way street, going north only.

Drivers will still be able to do a right turn onto Ferry Street by going through the city hall parking lot, said Coyle.


Doing business,
navigating construction

The city has $15,000 earmarked in the construction budget to help promote shopping in Anoka’s downtown during the makeover.

Starting Monday, the merchant group, Rediscover Anoka, will start distributing special kits to local businesses, telling people “it’s not construction, we’re just getting a little work done.”

That promotional money will be spent on advertising to let shoppers know downtown Anoka is open for business throughout the construction season, said Pete Turok, executive director of both the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce and the Anoka Business and Landowners Association.

While business owners aren’t excited having construction on their doorsteps, Turok said the end result is something that will benefit businesses downtown.

“What we’re going to have is a downtown that is more customer friendly,” he said.

He commends the city for being engaged with the business owners from the start, Turok said.

Turok has led a committee that has been meeting since September focused on promoting shopping in downtown Anoka when road work might make it less convenient.

Rediscover Anoka will be launching a VIP card for shoppers who will take the pledge to keep shopping Anoka first, said Turok.

“We’re also doing something called ‘Fiver Fridays’ where we’ll be surprising customers with a free $5,” he said. “It’s a way to thank people for putting up with it (construction) and show them we appreciate their patronage.”

Along with Riverfest, neither the Saturday night car show nor the annual sidewalk sale will be impacted by the work on East Main, said Turok.

Weekly update meetings with the contractor will take place on Thursday afternoons at the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce office.

“The first 15 minutes will be dedicated to public information and questions,” said Lee.

The city has also established a construction hotline, where people can call to get the latest project updates at 763-576-2729.

For concerns, residents and business owners should contact the city’s project representative, Jim Stockhaus, at 612-616-1599 or the public services department at 763-576-2980.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]