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It was delayed by years of planning, then by pricey bids, cold weather and floods, but Stillwater's remake of streets and curbs near the historic Lift Bridge will finally wrap up Friday morning when the last construction barrier is removed from Main Street.

The result: a more walkable and inviting approach to the bridge, a safer crossing at one of the most heavily traveled intersections, and a plaza where tourists and locals can take a rest, enjoy the view and get their Lift Bridge selfie.

"It's nice to finally get it done for the city," said Stillwater City Council Member Mike Polehna.

A grand opening party next May may feature a dinner on the bridge and a dance on the plaza, but those plans are just getting underway, said Polehna.

The project was largely paid for by the state Department of Transportation, with the city pitching in about a quarter of the nearly $3.2 million construction cost, said Stillwater city engineer Shawn Sanders.

The project's centerpiece was the creation of Chestnut Plaza, a two-block pedestrian walkway lined with benches and trees that used to be a downtown street. When the Lift Bridge was still carrying vehicle traffic, cars by the thousands traveled that section of Chestnut Street every day, but that changed in 2017 with the opening of the St. Croix Crossing to the south of downtown. Now permanently closed to vehicles, the plaza will become a place to rest, stroll, or, sometimes, dance.

The city drew attention this summer when it hosted a street dance on Main Street while the road was closed by MnDOT for construction. The city can't close Main Street for future dances, since it's also a state highway, but the plaza will be a great spot for that, said Polehna.

City Council Member Larry Odebrecht said Sanders deserves "a ton of credit" for his work on the project, which saw multiple setbacks that were beyond the city's control. Bids for the project came in too high last year when the city first wanted to put shovels in the ground. Then, with new bids, the project got underway last fall, but cold weather shut it down before it could be completed.

Then the St. Croix River flooded in the spring, pushing construction back once again. The plaza was functionally complete by the end of June. The installation of streetlights and sidewalks on Main Street continued until this week; a final check on the new traffic light was scheduled to be done by 8 a.m. Friday, when traffic is expected to return.

The street closure didn't slow down business at Stokes Jewelry, a Main Street storefront near the Main and Chestnut intersection, said store employee Emily Donner.

"We're a destination shop, and people come here for a reason," she said. Her larger concern is the city's new paid parking system that went into effect last Friday. It requires drivers to use the Passport parking app or one of several credit card terminals to pay for parking areas east of Main Street. (Most parking west of Main Street remains free). Donner said she hopes the city enforces the free 30-minute parking on Main Street to give customers plenty of options if they want to make a quick visit.

The manager of a shop to the south of the construction said it wasn't bad, even though it took place during the city's busy summer tourist season

"It didn't have as much of an impact as we were all worried it was going to," said Maia Hiltunen, manager of Sota Clothing on south Main Street.

Now that the project is done, the city is looking forward to what comes next for Chestnut Plaza, said Odebrecht.

"I'm pretty proud of where we landed with it," he said. "I think we're going to do a ton of cool stuff with it."

Clarification: This story was updated to note that most parking west of Main Street remains free, and that drivers can use a credit card terminal to pay for parking if they don't want to use the Passport app.