Drivers traveling down Lake Road last week may have noticed something they haven’t seen for a long time – two-way traffic.
After about a year, orange barrels were being carted away as the massive construction project – which has rebuilt Lake Road from the sewers up – was completed last week, much to the relief of business owners and city officials.
“Last Tuesday they finished up the paving on the south side of the street and they decided to go for the final coat on the north side,” Mayor Pam Bobst said last week. She added that the final push to get the project completed and striping done was encouraged by the weather, which had been less than cooperative throughout the project.
“This was the worst spring I’ve ever seen. We totally lost April because of the rain,” said Safety-Service Director Jim Linden. He estimated the project could have been completed six to eight weeks sooner with more cooperative weather.
Manny Nieves, who recently purchased Grady’s Fine Wines, agreed with Linden.
“You really can’t blame anyone for how long it took. It rained almost every day in April,” commented Nieves, who added that he did quiz Mayor Pam Bobst about the project’s completion when she and her husband visited his store.
“I would ask her, ‘Where’s my road?'” he quipped.
Nieves added that he is enthusiastic about the business.
“I worked for 10 months to get in here. I couldn’t wait to get started,” he said.
The down time provided by the road work gave him the chance to set up shop and expand his inventory to include a unique beer selection and sweet treats baked by his wife, Jennie Lynn, which include wine and spirits in the recipes.
Down the street, Karen and Jill Harris, who had just opened Trois Soeurs also expressed their excitement. The mother-daughter team are each one of three sisters, which gave rise to the name of their shop, which means “Three Sisters” in French. Their business, which only opened this month, features the works of local artists as well as vintage and antique consignment items. Karen Harris said they had heard the construction was almost complete when they opened. Both Harrises agreed that the road looked great.
While the business owners who have toughed out the entire project were happy it was over, they were weary of the topic.
“We’re just sick of talking about it,” stated one owner.
On Detroit Road, the mood was a bit more upbeat, as people were taking advantage of the new benches installed as part of the streetscape and sampling gelato, Italian ice cream, beneath newly planted trees.
“We haven’t lost many storefronts during the project,” commented Laura Jacobs, president of the Shops of Old River Business Association, and owner of Embellish. She said a ribbon cutting to dedicate the area is planned for Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. in conjunction with the final “Sip and Stroll” of the summer. She explained that this is a monthly event that lets residents “stroll” the shops, which stay open until 8 p.m.
“Now that the street is open, we’ll get some more attention,” said Jacobs, who said that her new neighbor would be a travel agency specializing in Italy. She said this added to the Italian flair of the area, which also includes the Stino Da Napoli restaurant, Solari Home and Rosso Gelato.
Jacobs added that many businesses in the area are housed in historic buildings, and that during the course of the road work, the old brick street was uncovered and found to be made of bricks formed by prisoners in the 1920s.
One of those historic buildings on Detroit Road is the old City Hall, which
Linden said he would love to see returned to the city and made home to the historical society as well as the city’s antique fire engine.
But for now, Linden is most looking forward to the reopening of Bearden’s on Detroit Road. “I never want to go through that again,” said Linden of the Lake Road project. As for any celebrations to mark the end of construction, Bobst said that she had joked about the high school marching band parading down the street. “The last thing we want to do now is close that street for any reason,” she said.