Safe, walkable streets. Mom-and-pop shops and local cafes. Clean sidewalks and affordable housing. A place where the community gathers and friends connect. This spring, the first phase of construction began on a long-awaited Paradise project: a new downtown.
“We invite you to a vision of a new downtown Paradise and the type of infrastructure that has been long overdue,” said Marc Mattox, Public Works Director/Town Engineer for the Town of Paradise. “It will be a vibrant downtown that supports businesses and affordable housing, economic development, recreation, and walking, biking and driving on nice roads.”
Mattox, a licensed professional engineer in civil engineering with over 13 years of experience in municipal service, looks forward to this project as one of the most important economic development milestones in Paradise’s recovery.
Where will the new portion of downtown be located?
The Paradise downtown, currently centered on busy Skyway, will be growing east to the more walkable Almond/Fir/Birch/Black Olive area. Black Olive, Elliott, Pearson, and Skyway will be the primary exterior borders.
Infrastructure upgrades need to be made.
For that expansion to happen, however, these streets need a makeover. Sidewalks, drainage, storm pipes, re-paving crumbling roads, landscaping, pedestrian lighting, interconnected pathways, bike lanes, and underground utilities will all need to be put in place before the vision is realized.
This project will be the town’s largest infrastructure project in decades. More officially known as the “Almond Street / Gap Closure Projects,” the project aims at filling in the “gaps” in sidewalks and other crucial infrastructure needs to allow for a flourishing downtown area.
“At this moment in time we have such a need for infrastructure,” said Mattox. “We need to support the community and downtown for the highest probability of success. Having this infrastructure that has been overdue for decades is very important so people can walk and ride their bikes and enjoy Paradise.”
These upgrades have been in the works for over a decade.
The idea of creating a safer, more walkable downtown area was built into the 2010 Downtown Master Plan, a document created and built with the community in mind. Original construction was scheduled to begin in late 2018.
The Camp Fire obviously affected those plans, said Mattox, but the plan was quickly re-incorporated into the Camp Fire Long Term Recovery Plan. “We had to take a step back and evaluate priorities,” he noted, but “the time is right now. [The idea] isn’t new, but it’s more important than ever in context of the Camp Fire.”
How long will this project take?
The new iteration of the project began in 2019 with crucial data gathering, moving to redesigns in 2020, and then the removal of a few dozen hazard trees and installation of underground utilities in early 2021.
April marked the proverbial golden shovel hitting the dirt on Almond street, and construction should hopefully be finished by the end of the year or early 2022. Over the summer and into the fall, expect to see first demolition and then the building of sidewalks, gutters, and physical improvements moving in the area.
What does that mean for Party in the Park?
There will be construction in the area, but the Party in the Park is happening! The Town worked with the Chamber of Commerce to come up with a plan to keep the project moving ahead while ensuring public safety and enjoyment. “It’s a season of transition with this project under construction,” said Marc. “We expect on-street construction and parking impacts, so please be flexible, be cautious, and be safe walking around this active job site.”
The project is funded almost entirely by grants.
This overall $8.2M effort is primarily funded by the State’s Active Transportation and Federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality using grants secured between 2015-2017.
Who is doing the construction?
Local company Knife River Construction, based out of Chico, and their subcontractors won a very competitive bid to work on this project.
What about the sewer?
While the sewer project is still in development stages, the general idea is that trench lines would be installed in the future and the downtown area would be restored to pre-construction conditions.
What will happen to the Skyway?
The answer to this question, said Mattox, will be largely the result of public input and feedback and ultimate direction from Paradise Town Council. Upcoming workshops on general infrastructure and transportation will be soliciting public feedback on possible opportunities for the existing Skyway businesses and open spaces.
“We have a unique opportunity when we’re building a new downtown area. The idea is to repave all the public streets in the entire town in the next five years, and with that comes a great opportunity to reconfigure, restripe, and figure out the best use of infrastructure for our post-fire needs.”
In the meantime, continue to be Paradise Strong!
As this important piece of the Long-Term Recovery Plan kicks into high gear, Paradise continues to move forward in rebuilding the Town and establishing future opportunities. “Please help us support our business community during construction,” asked Mattox, “as we transition to a more complete, safe, and community-oriented downtown Paradise.”