Smithfield has begun overhauling the downtown parking lot sandwiched between Wells Fargo and the soon-to-open Simple Twist restaurant.
Built in the 1970s, the parking lot, in the 200 block of East Market Street, has fallen into disrepair from daily use and damage caused by the roots of Bradford pear trees that shaded the area.
The impetus for the improvements came from the Smithfield Appearance Commission, which Public Works Director Lenny Branch said worked with his department to get the project going.
A few weeks ago, town employees cut down and removed the Bradford pears. Over the next month, Branch said, his staff will grind the stumps, plant grass and replace the trees with paperbark maples, the same type planted along Market Street.
To minimize the inconvenience to motorists, Branch said the town will work on Saturdays whenever possible.
The landscaping will cost about $2,000, and Branch said the appearance commission agreed to foot that bill. Since the trees came down, Branch said he has gotten a positive response from the public.
“I’ve had a lot of people really excited about the improvements,” he said
Repairing the damage the trees caused will cost significantly more and require approval from the Smithfield Town Council.
Conservative estimates put the price around $35,000 for the project, Branch said, which would include cutting through asphalt to remove roots, replacing broken curbs and repaving and repainting the entire lot.
Mayor John Lampe said he does not know when the council will approve funding for the resurfacing, and Smithfield plans to ask Johnston County to share in the cost. The county has helped pay to maintain the lot in the past, Lampe said, because county employees use the lot, which is right across Market Street from the courthouse.
Once the money becomes available, Branch said, the work will take a few weeks to complete.
The Downtown Smithfield Development Corp. welcomes and supports the renovations, Executive Director Sarah Edwards said.
“That parking area definitely needed some work done on it,” she said.
“Anything we can do to make downtown more attractive and more user-friendly, the better for downtown as a whole and for our businesses.”