Public Input Supports Union City Gateway Alternative

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Public Input Supports Union City Gateway Alternative

By Stephen Bishop

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Public input on three design alternatives for Union City’s downtown “gateway” initiative support a design that incorporates a hipped roof over the stairway access to the lower municipal parking lot.

A committee working on the gateway redesign since February with the Erie architectural firm of Bostwick Design Partnership recently settled on an overall design for the intersection of Main Street and High Street. The public was asked to weigh in by email with their opinions on three alternatives for a roof feature at the rear of the property currently inhabited by the former Union City Dinor.

The diner would be removed under all three design alternatives. The roof system in question would cover an area between the current diner site and adjacent Salvation Army store, by which pedestrians would access the lower municipal parking lot via a new stairwell and mechanical lift. The roof would also support an artistic panel above it which would receive the same roof design as the larger roof system beneath it.

The three options featured a flat roof, a hipped roof, and a pitched roof, and public input supported the hipped roof design of “Option 2,” said Dave Nothum, president of nonprofit Union City Pride that is spearheading the gateway initiative.

Nothum recently met virtually with the gateway committee and representatives from Bostwick Design to assess the public input and decide which design option to pursue. He said approximately 18 emails were received during the two-week input window, and he had verbal conversations with approximately another half-dozen individuals.

“The majority liked options two and three,” and option two with the hipped roof was the favorite, he said. “People are pretty excited about making this happen.”

Nothum said he was told the video presentation created by Bostwick Design and made available on the Internet, explaining the several-month design process and the design alternatives, was helpful to people.

“I had several people tell me the video helped,” he said. “The video was a major factor in understanding what needed to be done there.”

Part of that explanatory effort was to outline why the former diner can’t be retained, because of its deteriorated condition.

Nothum said there was some regret expressed about the inability to save the diner, but that everyone he spoke with understood the need to remove it.

“There were no negative comments at all,” he said. “The comments were all positive.”

Borough Secretary Cindy Wells, a member of the committee, said likewise that she hadn’t seen any negative comments on social media.

Architect Dave Brennan said Bostwick Design said the hipped roof of the selected design, along with the brick columns and exposed steel truss roof support structure reflects the downtown.

“I believe this option was chosen because it provides more articulation and added interest to the gateway, brings more attention to the building and alley entrance, and strongly reflects the character of the downtown architecture,” Brennan said.

“The proposed gateway development will provide a new entrance landmark and a powerful first impression that will welcome and help to draw visitors to downtown, restore pride in and celebrate the heritage of the Union City, inspire future development, and support the local economy,” he added.

Bostwick Design was paid $36,660 for its efforts, funding included in a $258,000 grant to Union City Pride from the Erie Community Foundation’s Shaping Tomorrow program.

Wells said she and Melinda Meyer of Preservation Erie are exploring funding options for the project. She noted application has already been made through Union City Pride to the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, but that decisions from DCED aren’t expected until March.

The entire project is proposed to be undertaken in three phases, and would cost between $630,000 and $700,000 according to Bostwick’s estimates.

Phase 1, totaling between $260,000 and $285,000, would include demolition of the dinor and former church building’s Main Street façade; masonry restoration of the entire church building exterior; restoration of the former church building’s Main Street façade; and infill of the former dinor.

Also included in Phase 1 are structural work for new windows and a new door toward the rear of the former church building’s High Street façade; demolition of the existing alley and stairs at the municipal parking lot level; a new retaining wall and stairs from the parking lot; and planting of grass on the former dinor site.

Phase 2, totaling between $140,000 and $160,000, would include installing the metal roof overhang on the High Street side of the former church building; a new metal roof above the stairs and alley to the parking lot; the new ADA-compliant lift from the parking lot to the High Street elevation; and alley masonry restoration.

Phase 3, totaling between $230,000 and $255,000, would include turning the grass at the former dinor site into a concrete plaza, surrounded by low brick walls and landscaping; installation of new concrete sidewalks and curbs; new iron fencing at the plaza; and new masonry walls and fence surrounding Industrial Park.

Phase 3 also includes matching towers on the southwest and southeast intersection corners to complete the feeling of entering a gateway to the downtown ; and a mural on the wall on the west end of Industrial Park.