Residents from Allison Hill mulled over bike lanes, roundabouts and rain gardens at an open house on Thursday, as the city displayed plans to improve transportation in the area known as MulDer Square.
The purpose of the open house was to solicit public opinion on design proposals for a redevelopment project on Derry and Mulberry Streets in Allison Hill. The intersection of these streets is called MulDer square, and Harrisburg officials and residents hope that they can spur economic development there, in part, by improving pedestrian access and calming traffic.
The event, which was also attended by city officials and project consultants, was held at Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren on Hummel Street.
The city has proposed designs that include creating a linear park with bike lanes on Derry Street and a public gathering space at the intersection of Derry and Mulberry. The project managers are also considering two options for improving walkability at that intersection: a traffic roundabout or a traditionally signalized intersection with green space and large sidewalks.
Deborah Rodriguez, a resident on Sylvan Terrace in Allison Hill, was happy to see plans targeting pedestrians in her neighborhood.
“You see a lot of people walking over the bridge to work in the city, so I’m glad to see attention drawn to this area,” she said.
Rodriguez called the proposed projects “wonderful” but expressed concerns about their long-term upkeep.
“I want to know whose responsibility it will be to maintain it,” she said.
She suggested that school children or community organizations could have a stake in keeping the spaces clean and functional.
“These plans are beautiful as long as they have organized maintenance,” echoed Shirley Blanton, president of the South Allison Hill Homeowners Association.
Chris Eby, a software engineer who lives on Market Street in Allison Hill, comes into the MulDer Square area every week to volunteer at the church. He hopes that the city will look beyond its target area to maximize pedestrian and cyclist safety.
Eby pointed out that the areas receiving pedestrian improvements and bike lanes are not necessarily connected to other areas with the same amenities. For example, Mulberry Street meets Cameron Street at a busy intersection that is a frequent site of pedestrian accidents. And though the city is proposing a bike lane for Derry Street, it would not intersect with any other bike lanes in the area.
“We need to think about where pedestrians will go when they leave this area and where cyclists are coming from,” Eby said.
Residents who attended the open house were invited to complete comment sheets for the project planners. City Engineer Wayne Martin, who is the project manager, said that one quickly emerging theme was the neighborhood’s desire for public art.
“They want us to include art and murals,” Martin said.
He plans to provide a new mock-up of the Derry Street project that will include the Mulberry Bridge Mural, which was dismantled and put into storage when PennDOT renovated that bridge in 2014.
Martin remarked that the event turnout exceeded expectations and generated valuable input for his team. He expects that at least one more round of designs and public meetings will take place this year.
The city hopes to begin construction on the projects in March 2019, Martin said, and complete them by that fall.