The project was approved by the board as part of a work plan for 2004 at Tuesday's Main Street Program meeting. The project will require the approval of borough council.
Live music and open air dining are part of Main Street Manager Barry Cassidy's vision of the downtown. The project might start as soon as this fall or next spring.
"There is a need to start on the 200 block of Bridge Street to develop a critical mass of retail, dining and entertainment establishments," said Cassidy. "I want to see people dining out there with little umbrellas in their drinks.
"We hope to tie the streetscape improvements to the development opportunities," he said.
The borough has already secured a county grant of $1 million for streetscape improvements. Cassidy is in the process of applying for an additional $500,000 grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
Dan's Sport's Pub of the 100 block of Bridge Street was the only downtown restaurant to feature outdoor dining last summer. Dan Phillips said there was outdoor seating for 25 patrons on Dan's Ugly Awning, which was located behind the establishment away from Bridge Street.
"There are so many poeple who drive along Bridge Street but don't have a reason to stop," said Phillips. "By the borough loosening restrictions on open air dining along Bridge Street it would show people driving by that there are some great places in Phoenixville. This would allow us to compete with Manayunk, West Chester and New Hope."
The board of directors approved several improvement suggestions that were created by an ad hoc streetscape committee for the Phoenixville Area Business Association (PABA). Those suggestions are as follows:
1. Benches should have an arm in the middle to prevent people from sleeping on the benches.
2. Signage for parking should be decorative.
3. There should be a drop zone in front of the Colonial Theatre.
4. There should be a loading zone in each block of Bridge Street.
5. There should be bike racks placed strategically throughout the downtown.
6. The group suggested the possible addition of a dog station in one of the parking lots.
7. There should be an arm on some of the light poles for hanging plants.
8. The tree pits should have vaulted electrical boxes with connections to enable the trees to be decorated with lights.
9. There should be a mechanism for flags to be hung from light poles.
10. The group favors the Foundry light pole standards currently in use with a different optic to ensure that there will be no glare.
11. Foundry lights should be purchased in cast iron and not cast aluminum.
12. The two lights at 225 Bridge Street will remain if after further study they prove to be of historic value.
13. Lights on Bank Street should remain with an improved optic.
14. Trash cans should have small holes to limit residential trash from being placed into the can.
15. The group also urged that the traffic signal standards be upgraded to decorative poles.
16. The installation of an overhead Gateway sign to span Bridge Street. The sign should be made of steel with the potential to add neon, if allowed.
The group also endorsed the submission of an additional $500,000 grant application to the DCED to be used for the following:
1. A reconfiguration of sidewalks to allow for more room for sidewalk cafes without completely eliminating bump outs.
2. Brick sidewalks on the 200 block of Bridge Street.
3. Granite curbs for the 200 block of Bridge Street.
4. Upgrade traffic signal standards to a decorative standard to match the proposed lights.
5. Installation of a new Gateway sign.
The streetscape proposals will be distributed in written form at the next PABA meeting to give an opportunity to digest the proposals and then have a discussion during an open meeting dedicated strictly to streetscapes.
The original $1 million grant will finance new streetlights, benches, landscaping and sidewalk repairs to much of the downtown business district.
Areas slated for improvements are the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Bridge Street, the 200 block of Church Street, Bank Street from Prospect Street to the nearby parking lot , Main Street from Church Street to the Low Bridge and Gay Street from Church Street to Bridge Street.
Councilman Chris Swenda (I-Middle) said he was pleased with the general improvements as proposed. "It will bring everybody in the downtown to the same level," said Swenda.