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Diggin' in downtown DL

THE VETERANS MEMORIAL PARK is coming together, as the granite monument is erected, along with flag poles. The city hopes to have the project completed by the end of the year.

It's full steam ahead for construction crews digging into downtown Detroit Lakes.

It's hard to miss the piles of dirt as you drive past Highway 10 and Washington Avenue, but look a little closer and you'll also see progress.

Two tall slabs of granite are now erect on the corner, marking where the Veteran's Memorial Park is being constructed.

"The city's public utilities department is working with the veterans groups in setting the flag poles up around the granite monument," said City Engineer John Pratt, "and the contractor is still working on grating and getting the park area ready for restoration."

Pratt says while the concrete work for the monument area has been completed, they're working against the clock in terms of getting the sod laid in time.

"We hope to get that in yet this year, but if it gets too cold we'll have to wait until spring because otherwise it just won't take," said Pratt.

An ornamental black fence will also soon line the property along the highway to provide a bit of a barrier.

The park is expected to be finished (with the possible exception of sod) by the end of the year, depending on mother nature.

In terms of parking around the park, Pratt says crews are working on finishing the aggregate base that goes below the asphalt pavement and plan to begin paving today (Wednesday).

That process should last a couple of days, with plans for parking lot striping happening on Friday.

"So if it all falls into place, we're anticipating opening it back up the early part of next week," said Pratt, "At which point we would begin the final phase -- the back alleyway."

Pratt says this phase will entail removing all of the existing surface between the Veterans Memorial Parkway and Holmes Street.

Crews will be hammering out some storm sewer reconstruction, a sidewalk and re-pavement of the area.

This is the phase that is sure to impact downtown businesses, particularly those adjacent to the construction that rely on back parking and accesses.

For this reason, city officials are hoping to whip through construction in only two to three weeks, but if the past is any indicator, it could be longer.

"We don't know if we're going to run into anything in the subgrade," said Pratt, who says during past projects in the area, crews have run into old building foundations and utilities in the ground.

"And that can tend to slow things down," said Pratt, "so we're going to make sure that area can still be accessible to pedestrian traffic to help alleviate some of the impact on the businesses."

The city is also still holding progress meetings once a week at La Barista on Thursday mornings at 8:00 a.m.

"We want to keep communication open as to where we stand with the progress," said Pratt.

And speaking of progress, developers with the new Downtown Crossing located next to the Veteran's Memorial Park and along Highway 10 say good fall weather has also allowed their construction to stay right on schedule.

Developer Jim Buus, with Schlossman Goldmark in Fargo, says while there has been a definite decision to hold off on the third of three buildings until spring, they've jumped a big hurdle in the other two.

"All the footings and underground work is done on the first two buildings," said Buus, "and we couldn't be happier about that because in any construction process, doing the underground work can be the messiest and most complicated, so once we've got that done, the above ground stuff is easier to do if there's inclement weather."

Buus says the walls of the buildings are just starting to be put up, and from there he expects things to take shape very quickly.

"We're shooting for February to be able to turn the spaces over to the tenants, and then from there, they will need to build out and set up their businesses inside."

Buus says all four spaces in the first two buildings are leased to all new businesses, except one, which is Miguels Mexican restaurant.

"And for the third building, we are in active negotiations with at least four different tenants," said Buus, who adds that the third 12,000 square foot building could hold six to 10 businesses, depending on the configuration.

Buus says they were excited to hear the news of the liquor store relocating to the current Burger Time location.

"We think it will compliment our center and drive a lot of traffic in that area -- It's really a win-win for everyone."