For years, one side of Washington Street has been lined by unkempt trees that bent their way through slumping steel fencing and a battered brick wall behind them.
That will be a memory soon – with plans being finalized to replace it all with a decorative downtown path for walkers, bikers and Flight 93 trail hikers – a central piece of the two-mile-long Iron to Arts Corridor.
Gautier CFO Jackie Kulback said that over the past week, an Alternative Community Resource Program crew has been laying the groundwork to make room for the path, removing the fence, debris and more than a dozen scattered trees, many of which were dead or dying.
The crew was hired by Gautier Specialty Metals, which has been spearheading the Iron to Arts project alongside the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership and Bottle Works.
Much of that cleanup work on Gautier’s end is starting to wrap up, Kulback said.
And planning efforts are already underway to add a decorative 8-foot concrete barrier wall from the intersection of Clinton and Washington streets to the Public Safety Building, she added.
Because the property is currently home to rail lines, industrial water pipes and other utilities, Gautier is working with the Cambria Somerset Authority, Greater Johnstown Water Authority, CSX Railroad and Penelec, among others, to get the necessary clearances to potentially launch the beautification and recreation project later this year.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” said Kulback, who was hesitant to offer a timetable and start date on the project. “But we’re already reviewing bids on the wall project.”
The project is also awaiting PennDOT’s approval for the designated bike lanes, she said.
Assisted partly through Commonwealth Financing Authority support announced in 2016, a 1,000-foot-long walking path will be added between the decorative wall and Washington Street, guiding Iron to Arts Corridor users through the heart of the downtown, past the Johnstown Flood Museum and underneath the historic Stone Bridge on Iron Street.
Murals and other art will mark the path the entire way, plans show.
Segments of the project will take walkers and bikers into Cambria City, showcasing colorful Bottle Works additions such as the newly developed Jackie’s Garden Works “green roof” venue and the Pop Plaza property.
“The idea is to have the entire corridor flow aesthetically,” Kulback said. “It’s going to tie everything together.”
Johnstown Redevelopment Authority Director Melissa Komar sees the project driving tourists and economic development to the city.
“Economic development and redevelopment come in all shapes and forms – from factory jobs, to tourism, to infrastructure improvements to the arts,” she said. “The Iron to Arts Corridor is a perfect example of using public and private partnerships to create momentum an vitality in our community.”
A block-by-block description of the Iron to Arts Corridor is viewable at www.irontoarts.org.