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Improvements to town center moving closer to fulfillment

After nearly six years, according to town officials, plans to spruce up Post Office Square and make much-needed road improvements around the center of town are coming to fruition.


P.A. Landers Inc., a construction company based in Hanover, was chosen by the state Highway Department to resurface North Main and South Main streets and revitalize Post Office Square, said Benjamin E. Puritz, Sharon's town administrator.

The project was estimated at $6.1 million last March. The state, which approved the town for funding in 1998, later bumped the estimate to $6.9 million. Bids came in early this month at about 5 percent higher, but still within the state's limits, Puritz said.

Estimates increased as the federal government updated construction requirements, he said.

"For instance, each of the corners had to be redesigned for the handicapped," with ramps providing access to the sidewalks, Puritz said.

Steve Rose, general manager of construction for P.A. Landers, said the Highway Department will review the bid for any technicalities, then send it to the department's board of commissioners for approval.

Judith Forman, a Highway Department spokeswoman, said the cost of the project also covers ornamental lighting, trash receptacles, benches, and plantings.

The contractor's $7.28 million bid was the lowest of three received, she said.

If the bid is approved, construction could begin around April 1, Rose said.

The project, which is fully funded by the state and federal governments, also combines brick sidewalks and flower boxes with the road improvements, said Norman Katz, chairman of Sharon's Board of Selectmen.

"This is going to be a dramatic change for the town," Katz said. "It's going to show the town in its best light."

Road work includes repaving 5 miles of South Main and North Main streets, stretching from the Foxborough border to the Canton and Stoughton line at Cobb's Corner.

Town officials are anxious to resurface the busy thoroughfare, which they said has not been repaved for 10 years.

Improving the appearance of Post Office Square will also help attract more residents to the area's shops, said Eric Hooper, superintendent of public works.

"Basically, most downtowns in surrounding communities are trying to do the same thing," he said. "They're making the attempt to keep residents within town."

Puritz said the Post Office Square improvements will include planting 100 trees, 300 shrubs, and 81 "period-style" lights along the streets surrounding the town's center.

"They're a lot nicer than those brutal cobra-headed lights," he said.

About 26,000 square feet of brick will be used to create the new sidewalks, which will run from East Chestnut to School streets, he said.

What may look out of place among all the new construction is the Wilber School, which was built in the 1920s and has been empty for 23 years, Puritz said.

The town would like to turn the South Main Street building into a municipal center, combining town offices, the library, and a senior center, but that could cost between $20 million and $23 million, he said.

So far, there is no funding for the project, Puritz said.

"We need a sugar daddy," he said.

Puritz said he hopes the improvements around Post Office Square, juxtaposed with the ivy-covered school building obviously in need of rehabilitation, will spur fund-raising efforts.

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