Delays and unknown conditions push Fountain Square completion date to 2018


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

The former layout of Fountain Square. The city’s reconstruction of the plaza is taking longer than expected.

Rishika Dugyala, Assistant Summer Editor

The construction of Fountain Square improvements will extend into the winter or spring of 2018 after facing delays for the veterans memorial wall and fountain, as well as unknown conditions with underground utility work.

It will take longer than anticipated for the city to get its hands on a larger mock up and final installment of the memorial wall, said Lara Biggs, chief of the city’s Engineering and Capital Planning Bureau. Officials also have to coordinate the more than 40-year-old fountain’s renovation with electric utility company, ComEd, she said.

And, whenever the contractor has attempted to excavate the northern side of Davis Street, unexpected items — excess concrete, abandoned pipes, etc. — have been constantly found, which has made for “slow going,” Biggs said.

“These small pieces have snowballed and added up to cause larger problems,” Biggs said. “But they’re not entirely unexpected. This is the sort of thing you discover when you excavate in an older urban area.”

The current square is located at the intersection of Sherman Avenue, Orrington Avenue and Davis Street. The renovation project, which has been in the works for roughly two years, began in April and will cost about $6.6 million, Public Works director Dave Stoneback told The Daily in March. The renovations will increase the square area and turn it into a mini park with outdoor furniture, new landscaping, a decorative fountain and an upgraded memorial wall.

The project is funded by money collected through city taxes for public works and the General Obligation Funds for Capital Improvement Projects.

Biggs said the city is working with the square’s contractor to determine if there will be extra costs associated with the utility issues encountered, but so far the contractor has not requested additional reimbursement.

However, Biggs said, the work on the south side of Davis Street is mostly on schedule.

Substantial water main, sewer and other underground utility work has been completed south of the street, according to a news release. The sidewalks on the south side are almost finished and the new plaza is expected to be completed this fall.

Even with the north side delays, Biggs said, the city intends to “button up” the project during the holiday season to minimize the impact on downtown shopping.

“This has been a positive community construction project,” Biggs said. “I wish it were not such a hardship — because it is, the construction is really intrusive — but the people and businesses in the downtown area have been very cooperative.”

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