Looking south from North Main Street and Broadway one doesn’t see any obstacles that would prevent visitors from crossing the street to explore more of what Hannibal has to offer. However, long-time downtown business owners Bobby Heiser and Mike O’Cheltree contend there is an "invisible wall" that blocks the exploration of South Main Street and beyond.
"If you ever sit here during a week when there are a lot of tourists in town, they walk up and down North Main," said Heiser, owner of Crescent Jewelry. "When they get to Broadway there are no (decorative) crosswalks like here are in the historic district, with the fake bricks. They (visitors) turn around and go back down Main. Nobody ever crosses (Broadway), absolutely nobody."
"When tourists come to Hannibal they come right to the edge of Broadway from North Main and they stop. They think, ‘Well that’s it. There’s no more,’" said O’Cheltree, owner of the Native American Trading Co. "We’ve got a theater down there. We’ve got some businesses that could be more readily utilized. We’ve got the Arts Council down there. There’s a lot of things, but people don’t know it because they stop right there."
The process of tearing down the "invisible wall" started Monday when members of the Street Department began the process of removing the existing pavement at three Broadway and Main crosswalks in preparation of the installation of stamped concrete crosswalks. The North Main crosswalk at that intersection was switched out with stamped concrete a few years ago when the street was redone.
"It’s going to be a cool project," said Brian Chaplin, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, of installing decorative crosswalks like those previously installed at intersections along North Main. "It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a while. Ever since the downtown project was done (completed in June 2014) we’ve been talking about it and throwing it out there every once in a while. Now it’s to the point where let’s go ahead and get it done while we can. Let’s just keep moving."
O’Cheltree predicts the crosswalk change will pay dividends.
"If you extend that (decorative crosswalks) across Broadway I think the people will go across and take a look down that way," he said, regarding South Main Street.
If there is a potential downside to the project it’s the fact the busy Main Street and Broadway intersection will have to be closed to traffic for over a week.
"The biggest challenge will be to shut it down, remove it all, have them pour the concrete and have the cure time. It’s going to take close to 10 days," said Chaplin, adding that doing the work in phases would only add to the project’s time line. "It would be tough to close this down in sections. It would be a longer process than to close it all down, remove it, put it all in at once and open it all at once."
Although in the project’s shadow, HNB Bank supports the city’s efforts.
"The bank’s stance would be we’re having a beautification project, and we’re for beautification," said James Millan, HNB Bank’s executive vice president. "If we have a slight inconvenience for a few days, that’s fine with us. We’re glad to work with the city just as we did with the flag project. It will all be good for everybody in the end."
"Anything we can add to beautify the downtown, that’s what we’re after," said Chaplin. "This will add to the looks of the downtown."
According to Chaplin the project will cost just under $24,000. Money for the project, which did not require City Council approval because it did not exceed bid limits, will come from a fund designated for street projects.
Reach reporter Danny Henley at email@example.com