Construction on Academy Street and a new downtown park will begin later than expected because it didn’t receive the appropriate number of bids for both projects.
The town had planned to begin work on the projects this spring, closing down traffic on part of Academy Street for five months and temporarily moving events typically held downtown to other sites.
The town budgeted $8 million to narrow the downtown thoroughfare to allow the widening of sidewalks. New benches, trees and public art will be added. Cary also plans to build a $5.2 million downtown park on 7 acres at the corner of Dry Avenue and Academy Street.
Staff now expects construction to begin in late May at the earliest, said Kyle Hubert, project manager with the Town of Cary. Once it begins, construction is expected to last a year, he said.
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State law requires municipalities to consider a minimum of three bid offers. Cary received bids to reconstruct Academy and no bids to build the park, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht wrote in his blog.
Funding for the Academy streetscape improvements was approved by voters in the 2012 bond referendum. Bonds will pay for $2 million of the park project. The town approved an additional $3.2 million for a town square in November 2013.
Academy will be a one-way street for the duration of the first phase of construction as the east side – the same side as the post office – is closed. Cary staff is attempting to maintain access to businesses along the corridor, Hubert said.
“We are trying to help mark those (entrances) to help avoid confusion,” he said.
The construction will likely deter some potential customers for Academy Street businesses such as Stonehaven Jewelry, said store owner Ron Lodholz.
Stonehaven draws most of its customers through its website or through referrals, he said.
“You still draw some people when they drive by,” he said. “Obviously, nobody wants to drive where there’s a one-lane road and road construction.”
But Lodholz thinks the improvements will result in long-term gains that will make any short-term losses worthwhile.
“You’ve gotta break some eggs to bake a cake,” he said. “When they finish, it’s gonna be beautiful. It’ll be worth it.”
Hubert said construction crews plan to work on sewer lines at night to lessen the effects on Academy Street houses and businesses. Cary staff is still developing a plan for picking up trash and delivering mail, Hubert told a group of about 30 residents and business owners at a public meeting on Tuesday.
Many said they worried about increased traffic on side streets, such as South Harrison Avenue or South Walker Street.
Parking might get hairy, too, said Lee Rothstein, a sales specialist at Kitchen & Bath Galleries at the corner of Academy and East Chatham streets. The business has about 14 spots designated for its customers, he said.
“I don’t know where (other downtown customers) are gonna park,” Rothstein said. “It is what it is.”
The town plans to hold a public meeting so residents and local business owners can speak with the Academy Street contractor before his company begins construction, Hubert said. A date for the meeting has not been set.
Cary leaders have spent millions on various projects to renovate downtown, and some business owners credit the town for generating interest.
Businesses, meanwhile, wouldn’t have opened downtown without Cary’s help. Belle, a farm-to-table restaurant, opened in the historic Jones House after Cary spent about $250,000 to renovate it.
The latest town-backed project to begin construction is The Mayton Inn, a boutique hotel at the corner of Academy and Park Street. Cary leaders last year awarded $1.4 million in loans to the hotel, which is expected to open this summer.
Cary staff hopes to ensure that potential customers can get to the Mayton Inn and other Academy Street businesses once road construction starts.