Dan Taylor took a seat outside his restaurant after all the pomp and circumstance ended at the intersection of Main and Clinton streets last week.
The Taylor's People's Park co-owner marveled at the scene: a new roadway, wider sidewalks, new light fixtures, new traffic signals, new infrastructure.
And a new found energy in these parts of downtown after months of construction closed traffic from West Broadway to Wisconsin Avenue.
"I'm thrilled," said Taylor, sitting at one of his new outdoor dining sets that was made possible from the project. "I love the design. It's very complementary to our building."
The extensive project included replacing the deteriorated pavement, curb and gutter, sidewalk and terraces. The terraces, enhanced with concrete pavers, were also widened to allow for additional safe pedestrian circulation, street trees and other amenities. New LED lights were also added.
The aging underground utilities were replaced, including the streetlight conduit, water main and sanitary sewer — infrastructure in some cases that were more than 100 years old.
"I've been involved with a couple of these downtown projects, and none of them ever go easy," said City Administrator Ed Henschel, who was joined at a Clinton Street reopening ceremony on Friday, June 27, by Mayor Shawn Reilly and Director of Public Works Fred Abadi. "This one went probably as good as I've ever seen them go."
The project started at the beginning of March and ended a few days ahead of schedule.
Abadi thanked the common council for allocating the funds for the project, the businesses for their patience and cooperation, and the contractor and subcontractors and his team, especially project manager Alex Damien, for their efforts.
Damien said it's a "huge relief" having the project completed.
"I think everybody is very happy with the outcome, and that just makes everything that much better," said Damien, who led informational meetings on the project with downtown business owners and property owners last fall. "It's really been at the (front) burner of my plate. We wanted to keep everyone informed and happy. That's the city's goal."
While the end product was a joyous time, not everyone was happy throughout the process.
Sandy Cianciolo, owner of Mia's Italian Restaurant, 800 Clinton St., said during the last few months he saw a loss of 42 percent in sales from the same period last year. He said he lost 65 percent on carryouts.
"People couldn't get here," Cianciolo said. "We'll never make (that money up.) Once you lose it, it's lost."
But Cianciolo said business picked up again as the project was wrapping up.
"I knew it was coming and knew March, April and May were going to be down (in profits), and you adjust to it," Cianciolo said. "We are the only restaurant directly on Clinton Street, so we got hurt the most."
Lynn Gaffey, owner of Almont Gallery on the corner of West Main and Clinton streets, was also hurt financially.
"Construction is construction, and it did make an impact," Gaffey said. "People didn't know where to go. It was a huge project. So I'm glad it's done and I wouldn't want to go through it again."
But Gaffey, who said the contractors were very accommodating, understood that it had to be done.
"It's just something you have to go through," Gaffey said. "(The contractors) did the best they could do and I think giving them a time of when it had to be done was very good. The city people that were involved were superb."
Taylor, meanwhile, said his restaurant, on the corner of Main and Clinton streets where the reopening ceremony took place, continued to thrive during the construction.
"It was a shock," Taylor said. "We didn't have our parking for most of this. We rely on our parking lot. Even when the sidewalk was just two feet wide we would still get our big Friday night, Saturday night crowds."
More projects coming up
Looking ahead, the city will again start holding informational meetings in the fall on the next downtown project. The city plans to overhaul West Main Street from Clinton Street to Wisconsin Avenue as well as on Maple Avenue (from Main to Wisconsin).
And in 2016, construction will take over West Main Street from Clinton all the way to the intersection of Barstow Street.
Reilly, whose old law office (Hippenmeyer, Reilly, Moodie & Blum, S.C.) was at the south end of the most recent project, said it has raised the bar for future projects.
"I've had a long experience with construction projects and this one was done really well," Reilly said. "We ended up with a beautiful road that is going to be a model for what we're going to be doing. Our downtown is going to look phenomenal. We kind of have a tough act to follow because we did such a good job on this."