Downtown lighting, landscaping upgrades under way in Old Town Bluffton

cconley@islandpacket.comMay 15, 2012 

New streetlights, a sidewalk extension and a public plaza are coming to Old Town Bluffton, the latest projects in a $330,000 beautification campaign that began earlier this year.

Within a few months, decorative streetlights will be installed on both sides of May River Road between Schults Road and Pin Oak Street. That work will extend the line of lights added in March about a quarter of a mile.

Work already has begun on a brick plaza at the corner of Boundary Street and May River Road that will feature bike racks, benches and a scaled map of Old Town built into the brickwork.

"I think the plaza at the corner will be a spot where citizens and visitors will gravitate (and become) one of the most interesting and enjoyable spots in Old Town," Bluffton transportation engineer Karen Jarrett said in an email.

The project also will extend existing sidewalks on the north side of Bruin Road from near Maiden Lane to May River Road. Up to 120 new oak, dogwood, gem myrtle and magnolia trees also will be planted in the neighborhood.

Money for the improvements came from SCE&G franchise fees, a federal Transportation Enhancement Grant and the local share of hospitality tax revenue, Jarrett said.

Beyond aesthetics, the new amenities should help attract people to Old Town and, more importantly, help them find their way around, said Mary O'Neill, head of the Old Town Bluffton Merchant Society.

"I think it's made a real difference," she said of earlier improvements, "and we want it to continue."

Landscape architect Eric Walsnovich, of the Bluffton firm e. paul wal, designed the plaza, which will use different brick widths to distinguish main roads from side streets. A rain garden with native, drought-resistant plants will symbolize the May River.

Walsnovich said he conceived the brickwork map to help people get around without adding new signs. Street names and some building locations will be chiseled into the map. This being South Carolina, a bronze compass point will show due South rather than North.

The nearly 5,000 bricks needed to build the plaza were donated by Reclamation by Design, a building salvage company located just behind the plaza site. Pat Strimpfel, the company's chief operating officer, said the bricks came from the same former Savannah warehouse that supplied bricks for Bluffton BBQ.

The town expects the entire project to be finished by August, although some phases will be done before that, Jarrett said.

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