2020 Best Public Improvement Project: St. Paul

Spanning seven years and seven blocks, St. Paul finally completed its comprehensive downtown infrastructure project in 2019. Lead by the town, with input from St. Paul Tomorrow’s Design Committee in the early stages, this $16 million project reconstructed the stormwater system, sidewalks, curbing, roadways, crosswalks, water lines and sanitary sewer lines. The need for upgrading arose from increased demand for water and wastewater, deterioration of the existing infrastructure and a desire to reinvent the Town’s image as a tourist destination.

The first funding came in 2014 from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).  Other funds were obtained from USDA Rural Development, Virginia Dept. of Health and a VDOT Revenue Sharing opportunity with Wise County. In December 2018, 10 months of construction began in front of the town hall. The construction plan was to tear up pavement, install water and sewer lines, fill in the holes, then move on to the next section and repeat. After that was done, pavement was torn up again, and storm sewers were installed and holes covered up. Relocation of electrical wiring, cable, and telephone rounded out the improvements.  

St. Paul Tomorrow Main Street Manager Kathy Stewart supported the businesses during the construction process by offering information and increased marketing for businesses, as well as voicing business concerns to the town council and construction managers. St. Paul Tomorrow worked with the town to offer small grants to businesses for façade improvements, such as windows, entryways and awnings.

It was a slog. The town, community and downtown businesses struggled through surprises, complaints, huge potholes, loose gravel, loss of revenue and a few hard feelings. Stewart recalls, “During construction, downtown was either a mud pit or dust bowl. However, the sacrifice was worth it.”

Now St. Paul has new safe sidewalks, more lighting, better storm drains, smooth pavement and increased pride in its downtown. Watch the transformation at the top!

Want to go deeper? Check out our conversation with St. Paul Main Street’s Kathy Stewart on the Partners for Better Communities podcast. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply play it here. 

Then hear highlights and see images in the official award video.