The winds of change and improvement continue to sweep through the streets of Mandan.

The City Commission recently accepted money from the North Dakota Urban Grant Program to reconstruct First Street and downtown avenues between Fifth Avenue and Collins Avenue, a five-block area that is home to many of Mandan's downtown businesses. The state grant program helps cities with more than 5,000 people make transportation infrastructure improvements within their core business districts.

Mandan's project, which is set to begin construction in 2021, will include a road surface reconstruction and sidewalk replacement. The city also is considering beautification improvements such as benches, planters, trees and bike racks. Additionally, the Engineering Department recommends replacing a water main.

“The general schedule is to bring a consultant on board near the end of this year or the start of next and have a preliminary design for next summer to share with the public,” City Engineering and Planning Director Justin Froseth said. “Then finish the design either late 2020 or early 2021.”

The estimated cost is $5.2 million not including a water main replacement. The city was awarded $2.4 million for the project, bringing the local share of costs to about $2.8 million. That will be funded through sales tax money, citywide property taxes, special assessments or possible outside resources.

The project announcement comes at a time when Mandan is taking steps to improve many aspects of its downtown experience. These particular road improvements will take place one summer after the planned reworking of Main Street and are intended to continue the improvement the city is experiencing thanks to some newly available funds.

“With Gov. (Doug) Burgum’s Main Street Initiative which he ran on in 2016, the Department of Transportation has a program that stems off of that called the Urban Grant Program,” Froseth said. “Both the Main Street project and this project received funds through that newly created program.”

Burgum’s Main Street ND initiative is aimed at revitalizing specific growth areas in North Dakota cities and towns. It and other incentive programs have provided Mandan with funding to continue improving its downtown experience.

“The Main Street Initiative is about healthy, vibrant communities, 21st century workforce and smart infrastructure,” Mandan Business Development and Communications Director Ellen Huber said.

The push for an improved downtown has come as new businesses are moving into Mandan and bringing more business and foot traffic to the downtown area.

“People love to walk around in places that look nice to walk around,” Mandan Bam Nutrition Co-owner Nicole Boyko said. “It makes it a much more pleasant experience and more relaxing to walk around a place that looks nice.”

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