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WAKE FOREST — Pardon the dust, town officials say, while crews complete sidewalk and street beautification projects along two downtown roads.
Streetscape work began Monday on East Owen Avenue, a short road that connects South White Street to Centennial Plaza in front of Town Hall. That followed the start of work in early February along a section of South White Street between Elm and East Holding avenues.
The local contractor, State Contracting, will install new street lights, benches, bicycle racks, raised planters, crosswalks and wider sidewalks with new pavers, according to Candace Davis, assistant to the Wake Forest town manager. The $5.7 million improvements also include planting trees, moving power lines underground and building curb extensions and bump outs.
Until work wraps up — which is expected to be in October — businesses, residents and shoppers will notice an increase in noise, traffic delays and lane closures along both work zones.
There is no street parking on East Owen while construction is underway, and traffic has been reduced to a single one-way lane from South Brooks Street to South White Street. Businesses in the area, including The Wake Weekly office, remain open and accessible.
Flaggers along the South White Street construction area have been coordinating traffic as workers dig up sidewalks. The planned improvements lie along a stretch of the road that includes a few homes, a water tower and businesses including a medical supply store, oil and gas company and a tire and muffler repair shop.
Many downtown businesses are familiar with this type of work, having gone through two rounds of South White Street streetscape already. Phase 1 wrapped up in 2010 and Phase 2 finished in 2012, according to a press release.
The town took a break from downtown streetscape to focus resources on improving other areas of Wake Forest, including greenway improvements, Davis said. At least five other phases of streetscape are planned for the future, but no timeline has been established for those, she added.
The town is financing $5.5 million of the cost of this phase, Davis said.
The goals of these projects “are to connect the historic core, provide a pedestrian-friendly experience, create a destination, and put people first,” Davis said. “The improvements will introduce a more vibrant look to downtown that further enhances the image and character of Wake Forest.”
She said the town believes the improvements will attract new businesses and other types of development in the area, spurring economic growth. Streetscape also attracts visitors who patronize local shops and restaurants or attend events and street festivals like Friday Night on White.
Developing East Owen Street will connect the renaissance of downtown to Town Hall, she said.
“This important initiative includes updates and improvements that will strengthen our infrastructure, support our economic development goals, and ultimately benefit our town for generations to come,” Davis said.
But until it’s complete, business owners must deal with heavy machinery and torn up roads in the area.
Davis said she hopes business owners can look past the inconveniences toward the changes that are coming.
“There’ll be some small bit of dust and some detours but we’re excited about what the outcome will be and we hope that they share in that with us,” Davis said.