MANSFIELD — Diamond Street is due for a change of direction in 2021.
Mansfield City Council approved three pieces of legislation Tuesday that officially moves forward a project to convert Diamond Street to two-way traffic.
The first measure, approved 7-0 with Councilman David Falquette abstaining, removed one-way traffic restriction for Diamond Street from First Street to Sixth Street.
All eight members of council approved an additional two resolutions appropriating $106,000 from the Downtown Improvement Fund to assist with the funding of the Diamond Street conversion project, and authorizing the Public Works Director to enter into a contract (or contracts) for resurfacing certain streets.
The total cost estimate for Mansfield's 2021 resurfacing program is $5.5 million. It will include 22.73 miles of road.
This conversion proposal project was first presented to council on Jan. 21, but a Diamond Street conversion has been in discussion for years. In October 2013, local businessman John Fernyak stood before council and asked for permission to personally fund a conversion of Main and Diamond Streets.
Fernyak believed the conversion would increase quality of life and economic development for Mansfield residents. But the idea died when Fernyak recommended a measure authorizing him to fund a feasibility study be tabled in November 2013.
"We get to the point of actually doing something, and then nothing happens," Fernyak told Richland Source in January 2014. "I have to have some assurance that once the study comes in, if it's favorable, the council is going to act."
Council took definitive action on Tuesday, pushing forward a vote on the three pieces of legislation related to the Diamond Street project. The three pieces of legislation would have otherwise not been read until Dec. 1, with a vote on Dec. 15.
"We've been talking about this for quite some time now," said Councilman Jon Van Harlingen. "I could easily say I've made my mind up and move this forward. The money is there."
The Diamond Street conversion project would be similar to Mulberry Street, a one-way southbound for many years that was converted to two-way traffic in August 2019.
"It's not like it's a new subject tonight," said Councilman-At-Large Phil Scott. "I would have no problem proceeding."
Council was then expected to have three readings on the proposal -- March 18, April 7 and April 21 -- with a vote on the conversion expected April 21. All of this was derailed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's unusual in that we had discussion, a public hearing and then shelved for quite a while," said council president Cliff Mears.
With the passage of Tuesday's legislation, city engineer Bob Bianchi anticipates a completion date of June 1, 2021.
"We would like to start construction in April on Diamond, then have a completion date of June 1," Bianchi said during the streets committee meeting. "We'd like to get in on the front end of summer and have it completed rather than waiting until the fall.
"Talking with the different people involved in the street department, I believe we can accomplish that if we get a favorable vote."
The Diamond Street conversion project is estimated to cost $552,000. No general fund money would be spent on the conversion.
Instead, funds for the project would come from four sources: The permissive sales tax, the street fund, the road resurfacing fund and the Downtown Improvement Fund, which began when council approved a $5 increase in motor vehicle registration fees in May of 2018.
Diamond Street's conversion is yet another part of the Mansfield Rising downtown reinvestment plan. One part of the plan suggested the city adopt and implement a "complete streets" policy downtown, designing traditional streets to enable cars to move quickly and efficiently.
Jodie Perry, president and CEO of the Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development and a member of the Mansfield Rising team, said the Mulberry Street conversion has improved traffic flow into and through downtown.
Perry believes converting Diamond Street will have a similar improvement in flow and development.
"Diamond Street is really the pair to Main Street," she said. "It has seen significant new investment over the past five years or so through The Phoenix Brewing Company, Hudson & Essex, Axe Social Lounge and more. A public investment such as this will spur continued private investment, as we have seen time and again."
Jennifer Kime, CEO of Downtown Mansfield Inc. and a Mansfield Rising team member, also expressed support for the Diamond Street conversion project.
"The conversion plans completed through the city’s engineer’s office are well thought-out, strategic and embody the vision many of us have for that corridor," Kime said.
"We believe this project is what's next for our downtown and will assist our efforts in recruiting new businesses and property developers into the downtown. An improved Diamond Street helps us grow the downtown as a destination."