Here’s a quick look on a Friday at some of the construction projects happening downtown. Most of this has been reported other places but, in case you missed it, here are a few noteworthy items.
The biggest project in downtown’s recent history is the Henley Street Bridge. It has grown to a $31,000,000 dollar project and has been underway since January 2011. Originally slated to be completed this past June, the new projection is for two lanes of traffic to open in February 2014, with the bridge to be completed the following June, a year behind the original schedule. You can get all your questions about the bridge answered here.
Just over the bridge is the old site for the Baptist Hospital, of course, and it’s been in the news recently. Largely abandoned for several years, it has been a source of obvious concern as it sat unused. While no construction has started, it appears likely that we are headed in that direction. Just last week the city and county agreed to a tax incentive package that should allow work to begin on a $165,000,000 project which will dwarf the Henley Street Bridge project. According to the article, this will result in “luxury apartments, student housing, a hotel and restaurant, as well as retail and office space.” The project should get underway in earnest starting this winter.
Moving slightly north and toward the main part of downtown, the Medical Arts Building is really beginning to look nice. A large portion of the façade is now a slightly darker color than the previous peeling paint. The color choices are still visible near ground level on the western side of the building. I think they chose well. New windows are also in evidence and I understand from Michael Grace, one of the developers, that they plan for several floors to be ready for occupancy starting in December. I hope to have some photographs of the available units when we get a bit closer to that time. In the meantime, they have a shiny new webpage that will give you all the details. I believe leases are now being accepted.
Over on Gay Street several things are happening. Clancy Optical will become an Irish Pub. It will be called “Clancey’s” and will be run by the same family and downtown will have English, Scottish and Irish Pubs. Just to the north from there is the former Arby’s Building, now Tailor Lofts and work has been going strong there for some time. Keep going north on Gay and there is the JC Penney Building. I don’t have a clue if anything has happened there. When Tim Hill argued for more money from CBID than the Medical Arts Building he implied that he was ready to go whereas they may not be. Well, the Medical Arts Building is closing in on the finish line and I am not sure if anything significant has been done on the Penney Building. Does anyone know?
As always, there are changes on Market Square. Tomato Head has begun their expansion in the building formerly known as Marble Slab. Preservation Pub has also begun serious construction on the Scruffy City Hall at 32 Market Square. Word is a bit of a brewing operation will be involved. I’ll definitely work on getting some inside photographs as the project proceeds. I’m told the balconies (which got approved), the brewery and the whole shooting match will be open by New Year’s Eve. Across the square, Blue Coast Burrito seems to be bogged down a bit. They closed sometime last summer but said they are coming back as a full-service restaurant. The opening or the new version was, I believe, supposed to have been in August. Now it’s October and it isn’t nearly finished. I hope they haven’t bailed.
Finally, the smallest of all the projects, but the one that promises to have the largest impact on my life: a lowly sidewalk on Union Avenue. This is the sidewalk I walk on the most and it has been cracked and broken and messed up for years. Happily that is no more. I understand a nice fence will be placed around the parking lot which will prevent the cars from parking on the sidewalk and driving over it as they’ve routinely done in the past. The light poles are also being looked at for improvement. Thank you Rick Emmett!
Have a great First Friday and weekend. Hopefully I’ll see you out and about.