Streetscapes ‘growing pains’
Jeremy Nash
Construction on Lenoir City’s downtown streetscapes project is nearing its conclusion on phase one of the southern side of Broadway Street, and workers are anticipated to shift their focus north within the next couple weeks.

Southern Constructors Inc., has been working from Kingston Street to A Street since the beginning of May.

“At this point … this the south side of Broadway that they’re currently working on,” Amber Scott, Lenoir City administrator, said. “You can see the bump-outs starting to form out from the sidewalks. You can see them pouring the new sidewalk and July (11) I think is on the most recent schedule is when they’re going to be shifting over toward the north side of Broadway to begin work.”

Mike McGaugh, Southern Constructors project manager, said each section could take about 45 days to complete.
Project details include placing electrical utilities underground, putting bump-outs at the intersection, cutting back the sidewalks to allow for easier parking and having stamped concrete in the intersections.
Scott said the southern end of Kingston to A streets mainly lacks electrical.
“That’s the biggest thing they have left on that side, and they’ll be shifting over to the north side to begin work there,” Scott said. “... They’re looking at pulling out of the area completely the first week of September, but now they’ll be done before that.”
While local officials have stated the project would result in minimal interference with customer traffic, Sparkly Pig co-owner Jennifer Wampler said she intends to shut down the business next week and stay closed until Sept. 6.
“It’s one of those things that we have to do this to make it better,” Wampler said. “Of course, it’s been very difficult while it’s been going on, but I think they’re still pretty much on schedule. It just seems like a long time. ... We were going try to stay open, but I don’t see any way possible. Once they put the fencing up and then they take all your sidewalk out and then — you just can’t have people coming across.”
Closure will occur for customer and vendor safety, Wampler said.
“But I mean if you look over there, I mean, it’s — when they bust this up, see, (the sidewalk) goes all the way to the door so it would be to my front door,” Wampler said. “So you just can’t (stay open). I think it’s going to be totally worth it. It’s just growing pains of Lenoir City. I mean, I don’t have any complaints.
“I wish there was another (solution), like fairy dust or something,” she added, laughing. “So, I think when we get through with this it’s going to be well worth it. It’s about what I expected it to be.”
Le Noir A Southern Belgian Bistro owner Jan Van Geyt said he plans to stick it out and remain open as long as he can, and if necessary to close, remain so for only about a week.
“They promised to keep” customer traffic accessible, Van Geyt said. “So, yes, I will stay open but if I have a big ditch in front of my front door, of course I cannot. But yes, I have every intentions of staying open. I will not be closed longer than a week. But I will do whatever I can not to do that.”
Scott said when work on both sides is complete, a contract on A to B streets will be drafted “maybe” toward the end of the year.
“We’ll have to do (request for qualifications) and have all those engineering firms submit all their qualifications and we select one of those and then we get into the meat of the plans, which basically what we’ll be doing is looking at the existing conditions of whatever block we’re going to next, we’ll look at those existing conditions — the engineers will — and then we will bid out for contractor to do the work,” Scott said.
The eventual goal is to reach from Grand to C streets, she said.
“I think that the next — the subsequent phases will go a lot quicker simply because we have the blueprint now,” Scott said. “This first block was sort of — it was new, and so obviously we’re just going to be replicating that all the way down to C Street. So, of course, barring any special conditions because you don’t know what’s going on underground sometimes until you start digging, I think it’ll go a lot smoother.”