Timing of Paving Project Concerns SP Merchants
Given a mediocre economy and the fact that fall is their busiest season, some merchants in downtown Southern Pines are worried that the repaving of Broad Street will negatively impact their bottom lines.
“Many businesses are limping along as is,” says Tony Grausso, owner of Seagrove Candle Co. “This project could have irreversible consequences for many of us.”
Other business owners take a more accepting attitude toward the project.
Claudia Miller, of Morgan Miller, calls it short-term pain for long-term gain.
“It’s going to be beautiful when it’s done, and it will benefit the town,” Miller says. “The better we look, the more people will come.”
The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has awarded a $1 million contract to S.T. Wooten Corp., of Wilson, to repave Broad Street — from Morganton Road to Vermont Avenue — and four other roads in Moore County. The work can begin at any time and must be completed by the end of November.
Therein lies the potential rub.
“Since the contract time frame extends to the end of November, it could actually undermine the busiest shopping day of the year, ‘Black Friday,’” Grausso says. “This would be horrible. Devastating, in fact. Customers would not bother with planning a trip to a construction zone on Broad Street when they could easily just go to a mall in Cary, Durham or Fayetteville.”
Road construction will limit access to businesses, create loud noises and foul the air when the asphalt is laid down.
As a result, Grausso believes downtown merchants need to know project details as soon as possible.
“There still may be time to influence the outcome in our favor, with minimal impact to our businesses,” he says.
Robyn James, owner of The Wine Cellar & Tasting Room, hopes that S.T. Wooten will be “sensitive” to downtown merchants.
“I definitely think they should do it at night or on Sunday,” James says. “We’ll stay open, but it probably won’t be worth it. Our customers want to park on our block because they don’t want to lug a case of wine several blocks. Wine is heavy and difficult to carry.”
Petra Keith, co-owner of Swank, doesn’t want the project to extend the “slow season”: June, July and August.
“I don’t like it, but they just redid the railroad crossings, and we survived that,” Keith says. “I’m not going to go out of business if they pave for a week. Those people have a job to do as well, and they’re going to be doing it a section at a time.”
Marianne Lewis, co-owner of Chef Warren’s, knows the project will disrupt her business, but she has an inherent advantage.
“We’re in a unique position because most of our customers call for reservations or directions, so I can guide them,” Lewis says. “You can tell the road needs to be redone. If you go into it with a bad attitude, you’re just going to reap discontent. If you want to be positive, just go with the flow.”
Town Manager Reagan Parsons says the town “shares” the concerns.
“We’ve impressed on DOT the importance of being in and out of downtown Southern Pines before the holiday shopping rush starts,” Parsons says. “We’ve been assured that we will get some advance notice as to when it’s going to occur.”
Hank Butts, vice president of S.T. Wooten, says the company has not scheduled a start date for the project, which also includes paving portions of Harrington Road northeast of Carthage, Carthage Road west of Carthage, Wilson Road near High Falls, and Pennsylvania Avenue from Midland Road to Pine Street.
“We typically conduct a pre-construction conference with DOT about 15 to 30 days before starting. We hope to have that conferrence on this project before the end of August,” Butts says. “We will be happy to discuss downtown merchants’ concerns at the conference. We want to work very closely with businesses to let them know what our plans are.”
Chuck Dumas, a district engineer for NCDOT, says the construction timeline will be laid out at the conference, adding that Broad Street was last repaved in 1988.
“S.T. Wooten has the ability to schedule their work as it fits best for them, but we will talk to them about all of the concerns,” Dumas says.
Several downtown merchants plan to raise the issue with the Southern Pines Town Council at its monthly work session at 3 p.m. Monday in the Community Room at the police department building. The proposed back-in angle parking demonstration along five blocks of Broad Street will also be discussed.
That $13,000 project is being piggybacked on the NCDOT repaving.
“Why not do it all in one fell swoop?” Parson says. “We have to spend the money, regardless of which direction we paint the lines.”
The new parking spaces will jut out at an angle from the curb but will face away from oncoming motorists instead of toward them. Similar to parallel parking, drivers will signal, pass their spot and back into it instead of entering front first.
The transition will be aided with signs and other markings to clarify the appropriate use of back-in angle parking spaces. Initially, “seed” cars could also be parked in a few spaces to illustrate the correct way to park.
Back-in angle parking is currently being used in North Carolina on several streets in Charlotte and is about to be implemented in parts of Cary. Its sporadic use around the country is concentrated on the West Coast.
In some cities across the country, drivers have had trouble adjusting. But the opposite happened in Tucson, Ariz., where the college town went from an average of three to four bicycle/car crashes per month before back-in angle parking to none in the first four years after implementation.
Contact Ted M Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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