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Block Avenue Construction Pushed Back, But Work Continues

by Skip Descant | July 17, 2010 at 5:23 a.m.
AT A GLANCE

Block Avenue Completion Schedule

• Mid August: Completion of sidewalk construction on the west side of Block Avenue

• Mid September: Completion of sidewalk construction on the east side of Block Avenue, and begin lighting installation

• End of September: Asphalt milling and street overlay, complete lighting installation

• Mid October: Install landscape islands from Spring Street to Center Street

Source: City of Fayetteville

— Construction delays on Block Avenue have the city pushing back the completion date and modifying the work schedule. By Friday, workers were building sidewalks and curbs on the west side of the street between Spring and Meadow streets.

Crews will continue to work on the west side of the street, even as some work remains on the first block between Dickson and Spring streets, according to a July 14 news release from Lindsley Smith, Fayetteville communication director.

This is a deviation from the original plan which was to complete one block before moving on to the next. The change means Block Avenue will not be closed to traffic during construction, city officials said.

“That was mostly brought about by not wanting to completely close the street,” said Terry Gulley, city transportation director, explaining the change in plans. “This will allow us to keep one side open.”

The project is a three-block streetscape renovation intended to slow traffic, add parking spaces and improve the walkability of the area through wider sidewalks, street trees and lamps.

“This will be different. It puts pedestrians first,” said Jeremy Pate, director of Fayetteville development services, standing outside the Lightbulb Club on Block Avenue Thursday afternoon, as officials met with business owners on the street.

Part of the effort to slow traffic involves narrowing the street to one lane and inserting planting areas and other devices such as raised, stamped-concrete intersections. Some observers have commented the design for the street with its serpentine-like travel lanes and angle parking moving from one side of the street to the other — to say nothing about the switch from back-in angle parking to drive-in angle parking — feels somewhat like an obstacle course.

“And that’s maybe exactly how we want people to feel,” Pate said. “We want to slow the traffic down for pedestrians.”

“But I admit, it will take some getting used to,” he added.

City officials have been meeting with business operators to explain the course of work. Those meetings seemed to be appreciated.

“The city’s been great. They tell us exactly what they have planned,” said Hannah Withers, owner of Little Bread Company.

“I expected to be really drastically affected by the construction, but we haven’t been,” Withers added.

“We’re doing everything we can to work with all the businesses,” Gulley said. For example, the sidewalk in front of Hugo’s — a popular basement restaurant on the street with only one narrow set of steps leading down to the front door — will likely be poured in the middle of the night.

“Then it’ll be dry enough to walk on by the time they open at 11 (a.m.),” Gulley said.

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