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Finally, it looks like Jackson Square's redesign is a keeper

By Joanne Beck
Jackson Square Ceiling

An outdoor project that’s taken quite some time in the creation mode seems to be coming along now, city officials say, teased by warmer weather and sunnier days.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski recently reported to City Council about “a really positive meeting on Jackson Square.”

“The redesign is going extremely well,” she said, adding that by working with Architecture Unlimited and an engineer who works with them have been creatively frugal in the design phase. “We hope when we go out to bid we can create substantial cost savings for the project. One of the items was the original project had footers in the stage, and by just placing concrete blocks instead of these footers is going to save us upwards of $150,000 on the project.”

Architect Kenneth Pearl said the Jackson Square stage was a type of pre-engineered wood (photo above) in a rather eloquent description, she said.

“So it'll be a very nice finish that will hold up the roof, and will be very similar to what we use on our buildings, on a rubber roof with kind of tongue and groove panels above it, and that will hopefully have a 20-year warranty,” she said.

A handicap ramp will be removable, so that it won't be built directly into the structure, will be something that can be “absolutely safe to roll up gear and or persons that need to use that ramp,” she said, and will also be removable so that it won’t jut out into the audience.

Another cost savings measure is to analyze the brickwork that is there, and some of the concrete larger slabs which architects have discussed, they are going to try to remove and salvage them in lieu of a concrete base so they don't sink again, Tabelski said.

“Because what happened before is they were just placed there and they sink like they might in a residential project. And with reusing those, we should save another significant amount of money. We want to look at different concrete dye colors to add just a little bit of textual and color elements to the flooring,” she said. “But overall, Jackson Square is really the paintings on the buildings, there's not much that needs to be done there. The catenary lighting, which is the lighting that goes above will still be part of the project.”

There will be LED performance lighting on the stage with color changes per holidays and special events. For example, Fourth of July would feature red, white and blue lights. Cobra heads will also be used, which are outdoor fixtures mounted to poles and mainly used for street and roadway lighting but can be used for other general area lighting.

“We’d have control over that. We also have one or two Cobra heads, (DPW Director Brett Frank) hooked me up to that,” she said. “As soon as we take possession in the phase two LED light changeover from National Grid, we'll be able to put dimmers and timers on that so we can turn those Cobra heads off during performances.”

The Jackson Square project has been at least three years in the making, reaching a point of requesting bids and City Council approving one in June 2022. But Mark Cerrone Inc., after receiving word that the company’s bid of $654,000 was selected, backpedaled with last-minute revisions and add-ons, hiking the bid up to $847,950.

Council then rescinded its approval and rejected that and two other bids for the project. The design went back for what Tabelski called a “deep dive” into potential cost-cutting revisions since it had to go back for a whole new bid process anyway.

The project is to be primarily funded with a $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, plus $225,000 from National Grid, Tabelski said.

“When we go out for bid, they look at the scope of work, and they put a price to that with the materials and the labor … so it necessarily doesn't always line up with the budget we have,” she said at that time to The Batavian. “So we will be re-examining our bid specifications to make sure we think that pricing can come in within that.”

She was hopeful that a contractor with an acceptable bid could be approved for construction to possibly begin in 2022.

Well, that hope has come and gone, and city officials are hanging onto the expertise of Pearl and his architectural firm.

“So we’re really, really happy of the work that Ken and his firm has been able to do to bring this project into where the DRI Committee asked it to be and to be able to bid it out in what we think will be on budget,” Tabelski said. “So the hope is if everything goes well, which I absolutely hope it does, you'll see bid awards in July.”

The plan is for the Business Improvement District to host the Thursday and Friday night concerts in Jackson Square series throughout the summer, and begin construction at the end of August, she said.

Photo of a similar Jackson Square stage image, with pre-engineered wood ceiling and LED lights, courtesy of City of Batavia. 

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