The Waleska Street pedestrian improvement project is now under way, and city officials say they believe the construction project will enhance the qualities of downtown.
On Tuesday, Canton conducted an official groundbreaking for the project, which will upgrade sidewalks and pedestrian crosswalks along West Main Street, beginning at Academy Street and continuing west onto Waleska Street and ending at RiverStone Parkway.
Also included will be North Street, beginning at Church Street and continuing to the Waleska Street intersection.
The improvements include five-foot-wide sidewalks, pedestrian lighting, crosswalks and necessary signage.
Georgia Development Partners is doing the work. The project is a part of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Living Centers Initiative, It is funded 80 percent by the state and 20 percent by the city.
Canton City Engineer Joby West said the project is slated to be complete by the late summer or early fall.
“There’s always an ‘if’ in a project like this,” he said, referring to the possibility of delays.
West added there will be an island of landscaping right at the intersection of Waleska and West Main streets where an existing “Welcome to Canton” sign sits.
He said nothing has been finalized regarding the plans, and the city will determine the features as they get close to that phase of the project. The project will force the city to close parts of streets that are affected and Georgia Development Partner will “do everything to try to decrease traffic delays,” West said.
While the project is not expected to impact many businesses, at least one business owner is not happy about the work. Wayne Sutton, owner of Canton’s Bus Stop Barber Shop, said he doesn’t see anything wrong with the sidewalks the way they are now.
“That’s bound to affect me until it’s completed,” he said of the project.
The project is also expected to consume parking space in front of administrative offices for the Cherokee County School District. Visitors to Building A will be redirected to park behind the building, spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said.
Mayor Gene Hobgood said the project has “been a long time coming” and said he believed the improvements could “really help the businesses” in the downtown area.
Canton Main Street Program Director Ginger Garrard agreed, noting it will help brighten the entrance into downtown Canton.
“When people cross that railroad track on Waleska Street, they are going to feel welcome,” she said.