Hillyard is getting ready to throw a huge party on Saturday because the street improvement project on North Market Street is finally over.
Merchants in the area struggled through detours and street closures last summer, and though Market Street reopened to traffic in November, things are just now returning to normal.
“We just want to invite people up here to see the new street, see our Hillyard,” said Desi Bucknell of the Hillyard Festival Association. “Many of the buildings have been painted, we have great new sidewalks and street lights, and, well, we think it looks great up here.”
Mayor Mary Verner will cut the ribbon at Queen Avenue and North Market Street at 10:30 a.m. A parade will follow on the new pavement between Columbia and Wellesley avenues.
“We have 150 cars and more than 20 motorcycles signed up for the parade already,” said Vickie Peterson, owner of the Hillyard Variety Shop and one of the parade organizers. “There will be some politicians, too, and we’re trying to get a marching band or some other music group. It’s going to be a great parade.”
The price tag for the street improvements alone was $7 million, paid for by the street bond passed by voters in 2004. The Hillyard neighborhood steering committee allocated $207,000 of federal community development grant money to pay for similar street improvements on Queen, one block east and west of Market. Finally, $50,000 of community development funds went to street trees.
One of the new organizations in the area is the Northeast Youth Center, which is celebrating its reopening Saturday. The youth center is participating in the parade, together with the Hillyard Belles, the Kiwanis and other civic organizations.
“We are going to have as many bands as we can get along the route, and there will be a street dance later in the day,” said Peterson.
Hillyard is mostly known for its eclectic collection of antique and secondhand stores, all of which plan to be open on Saturday.
“Things are really coming together for us,” said Peterson. “All the businesses will have lots of specials for shoppers and diners – we’re just hoping for nice weather so everyone can have a great day.”
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