Before the 1960s, Stevens Street only went up the South Hill to Seventh Avenue, blocked by the cliff above and the expansive estate of Daniel Corbin, which was purchased by the city park board in 1945.
But as early as the 1930s, city officials had been researching another way up the hill to relieve congestion on Grand Boulevard. Through the 1950s and 1960s, the city spent many hours of deliberation designing an arterial plan that would service the whole city. The city’s plan designated many streets, such as Alberta and Regal, and Rowan and 29th avenues, as arterials. The plan was for each arterial to be widened to four 12-foot lanes, two in each direction. City Engineer A.M. Eschbach argued that South Hill residents need a way to get downtown easily. “Otherwise, they’re going to do their shopping at nearby neighborhood shopping centers,” he told the retail trade bureau of the Chamber of Commerce in 1959.
The city proposed extending Stevens Street through the rocky bluff and tying into Bernard Street at 14th Avenue.
There was plenty of resistance. The neighborhood at the top of the cliff would lose several homes and the quiet they were used to. One neighbor on Sumner Avenue argued that his historic neighborhood “should not be violated” because of the good impression they made on visitors. Others said speeding cars on Bernard Street would endanger children at Roosevelt Elementary and St. Augustine School. Still others claimed the blasting might cause Cliff Drive to collapse.
The first phase of work punched Stevens up to the bluff, taking three acres of the Corbin estate, then called Pioneer Park. Resistance from neighbors continued even as the second phase cut through the bluff and connected Stevens Street up to South Grove Street, then on to Bernard and 14th.
During the late 1960s, the connection of Stevens onto Ninth Street and Grand Boulevard was added, followed by a new Cliff Drive bridge over Stevens finished the project.
The northbound, downhill connection from Grove to Washington streets is called Ben Garnett Way, named for a former City Engineer who began planning the project but died in the early 1960s.
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