ATHENS, Ala. - Some big changes are coming to downtown Athens. Many people know a major construction project kicked off last summer to make the courthouse square ADA accessible and increase walkability, but there was another, little known part of the project that is going to change how long people can stay downtown.
If you look at the square, you might notice some pretty beautiful upstairs spaces. Some started eyeing them eight months ago.
However, Athens Main Street Executive Director Tere Richardson said there was one problem.
"One of the top issues that came out of the visioning session with was we want living downtown."
However, Richardson said there was a roadblock. "Currently, the water pressure downtown fluctuates."
Old water pipes were keeping buildings from being up to fire codes, and Richardson added it caused issues with fire codes.
"They have to have sprinklers and in order to do that, you have to have enough water pressure up to those second-floor spaces."
Darker asphalt shows where the pipes have been updated; you can find them all over the square. This project was done with another project that built bump-outs and improved walkability on the square last fall.
Downtown Main Street doesn't want to stop at just loft living. Eventually, Richardson said they would like to see more apartments built near the square as well.
"You need a combination of both to drive a mass of people to live downtown."
Crews are still putting the finishing touches on the project, which is expected to be complete at the end of the summer.