08/20/14 — Streetscape

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By Ethan Smith
Published in News on August 20, 2014 1:46 PM

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Workers Tim Rhodes, left, and Alex Haney of Protection Services of Raleigh assemble a stop sign this morning that will be placed at the corner of Center and Mulberry streets while construction on Phase Two of Streetscape is under way.

Downtown business owners are worried that the second phase of Streetscape, which is expected to begin today, will be a real problem for their patrons and their bottom line.

About six local business owners met with city officials on Tuesday to express their concerns about how the construction will block traffic and make it difficult to get to their stores.

The first phase of Streetscape, which was completed in 2012, involved primarily the area in front of City Hall and caused minimum disruption to businesses.

The merchants say the second phase of the project, which is centered in the middle of the business district, will have more of an impact.

"It's gonna hurt," said Joe Goulding of Trophies and Tributes. "There's nothing we can do about it, so we'll just have to do the best that we can do."

The city will begin rearranging traffic patterns on Center Street later today, converting the southbound lane into a two-way pattern. The northbound lane will be blocked off completely by Thursday.

Goulding said he is concerned about the fence that will be placed in front of his business to allow crews to work on installing new utility and sewer lines under Center Street. He is afraid it will block his company sign.

"There's still the Peachtree Antiques and Interiors sign on the building that people will be able to see when the fence is up, but I'm not going to spend all that money to replace that sign," Goulding said.

For Goulding, as well as Dr. Larry Monk with Fifth Sun Media, making accommodations for elderly customers with limited mobility will likely be a problem.

"I'm concerned with the 80-year-old lady that will have to park across the road in the public parking lot and walk around the block to get here," Goulding said. "Of course, we'll help them carry their things to their car if need be, but we can't help them walk into the store."

Monk expressed the same concern.

"A lot of elderly customers park directly in front of my business," Monk said. "A lot of them use walkers. How do we accommodate that?"

City officials sought to reassure the business owners that support will be available.

Julie Metz, director of the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp., urged business owners to reach out to the city if they experience problems during the six to seven months that parking will be an issue.

"We know a lot of people will be compromising the way they do things, and we want everybody to know we are here to help," Ms. Metz said.

Accommodations for foot traffic will be made so that customers can still access the stores downtown by sidewalk, said Mark Beach, project manager with T.A. Loving., which is handling the work.

Beach said pedestrians will not be able to walk across the middle of the street, but will instead have to park at another location and walk around the block to access business on the northbound side of Center Street.

Gary Pipkin of T.A. Loving said this morning that fences will be up this afternoon along the median and curbside parking spaces. He said the four-way stop sign pattern also will be in place, but black bags will be placed over the signs and the new pattern will not go into effect until Thursday or Friday. The reason for the delay, he said, is that when the fences were brought to the site this morning, they were not quite what the company was looking for, so he made the decision to send them back to be brought up to his standards before placing them on site.

Beach also said any work done on sidewalks in front of businesses by T.A. Loving will be done after business hours to avoid foot traffic disruption, no matter how late businesses are open.

"If you close at midnight, then we'll start working at 12:30," he said.

After the new utility and sewer lines are installed and service begins to switch to the newly built fixtures, Beach said utility service to businesses will be interrupted, but not for long.

"When we switch everybody over to the new service it will only disrupt services for 30 minutes to two hours, max," he said. "We will execute the switch one business at a time."

Plans for the Streetscape remodeling also include the installation of three new roundabouts at the Mulberry, Walnut and Chestnut Street intersections.

Installation of the roundabouts will not disrupt traffic flow, Beach said. But the city'sRandy Guthrie, development services director, said the new roundabouts will remove about 50 to 60 feet of parking immediately approaching the roundabout.

Ms. Metz said at the meeting that one roundabout will have an 18-foot granite fountain in the center, while the other two will have place makers for displaying various works of art.

Monk said he "knows there will be a negative impact" on his business due to the construction that will limit traffic in front of his business.

Goulding said he plans to rely on his long-standing customer base to help him ride out the duration of the construction, as these customers will be familiar with the business location.

"We've got a loyal customer base that will still come to us for their needs," Goulding said. "I think it'll be good long term, but it's gonna be tough in the short term."