Water Avenue work nears completion

Published 8:48 pm Friday, July 28, 2017

A streetscape project to improve Water Avenue is expected to be completed within a month’s time.

The project started in March when crews started tearing up the old sidewalk down the west side of Water Avenue, and it is now close to completion.

“We’re looking to be substantially complete within two to four weeks,” said Josh Pierce, project manager from Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood. “Sometime over the next month the major part of construction will be completed, and it should be opened back up to traffic and to the public.”

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Over the last several months, crews have poured and shaped concrete for the sidewalks and laid bricks. The project started in front of Gallery 905 and has worked its way up to the Harmony Club.

“They are currently installing the landscaping – grass, trees and that sort of thing,” Pierce said. “We need to finish the crosswalks and finish the pavers, so that’s what they’re going to be predominantly working on over the next couple of weeks.”

Sod has been placed in some of the greenspaces, and trees have been planted.

It has been a rain-filled summer, but Pierce said the project has continued to make progress.

“Other than fighting the weather, I think the contractors have done an admirable job of working through little minor things that always come up in a construction project that we’ve got to deal with,” he said. “When you start tearing up old infrastructure, things aren’t always the same underneath the surface as you might think. No major hiccups though.”

Some business owners along Water Avenue think the work looks great, but it has taken a toll them. Mike England, who owns The Locksmith Shop, said he will be glad once the project is completed.

“It’s just about killed my business,” he said Friday. “You can’t see it when all of the trucks are parked out here during the week.”

England has been in business a total of 33 years and been located on Water Avenue for the last 18 years.

Charlie Morgan, owner of Charlie’s Place, said his business has also taken a big hit. Customers have had issues finding places to park or even knowing when the restaurant is open.

“It has hurt us because people think you’re closed when you’ve got construction equipment,” Morgan said. “What saved us was the fact that we did have the back door and the parking lot where they could come in that way, but when you’ve got equipment parked in front of your door and the street sign up there saying it’s closed, it makes it difficult.”

Morgan and England both said they are ready to see the project completed and Water Avenue return to normal.

“I think the end result is going to be good, but they didn’t take into consideration a lot of things. They took parking away, and Water Avenue needs it big time,” Morgan said.

Several parking spaces have been taken away from the west side of Water Avenue, which is one of the concerns Morgan said he wishes would have been taken into consideration during the planning phase.

The project is funded through an Alabama Department of Transportation grant and was supposed to be done in 2014 but was delayed several times due to the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and budget issues.