Phase I of the Sprague Avenue enhancement project, completed on March 5, features a new entryway into Tacoma. The Sprague entranceway is the first of two phases to help revitalize the Central Neighborhood of Tacoma.
According to the Central Neighborhood's website, the Sprague entrance is the six-block section of the avenue between South 19th Street and state Route 16.
The project, which had its groundbreaking in December 2012, includes landscape improvements, a new median to calm traffic near a sign welcoming people to the neighborhood, along with 200 new trees. Not only will the trees improve the city's tree canopy, but also they will also reduce rainwater runoff into the Foss Watershed. Stormwater runoff from 0.63 acres of major roadway will now be filtered with bio-retention rain gardens.
Jennifer Simchen, a 36-year-old Tacoma resident, said that she has lived in Central Tacoma all her life.
"Its a lot better up here than it used to be. It was dirty, there were junk cars everywhere and garbage piled up in yards," Simchen said. "I can walk around at night now where I couldnt before."
Justin Leighton, the Central Neighborhood Council chairman, said that the second phase of the project will help revitalize the west side of the strip. The residential areas there have no sidewalks and poor drainage causes lots of flooding during heavy rains, he said.
Leighton said that the neighborhood council is working with the city to try and find the funding for the next section of the Sprague Avenue project.
"As a neighborhood council we will continue to partner with everybody involved and try and find the best path forward," Leighton said, adding that it took a little more than two years to find the funding for Phase I.
Eventually, Leighton hopes that more artwork and seasonal banners will hang across the street. The city banner hanging now is part of an urban forestry program and serves as a way to educate people that tree topping isn't good, Leighton said.
Tree topping is the removal of the tops of trees when they reach a certain height. It is a practice typically done in urban areas, according to the City of Tacoma's website.
Leighton looks forward to what is to come for Sprague Avenue.
"I just think this is an exciting project for our neighborhood council to have a part of," Leighton said, "and we get to do some good things for the neighbors in that area."