Neighbors: Work on Grady Ave. a necessary inconvenience
DREW PARK -
Business owners and residents say they are in the middle of a construction mess on Grady Avenue. Some go so far as to call it a “nightmare.”
They hope by the end of the year they will see a repaved, landscaped roadway that is less prone to flooding. Then they can put behind them the dust, water shut-offs, power outages and traffic headaches.
The city awarded a $4.7 million contract to upgrade two-lane Grady Avenue from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Crest Avenue. The work includes new storm-water, water and sewer lines. At project’s end, Grady will have sidewalks, landscaping and new pavement.
“We’re overcoming our obstacles. It’s been a bear,” said Dustin Fowden, store manager at Peninsula Lumber Co., 4812 N. Grady Ave. “It’s just growing pains. If this takes care of the flooding ultimately it’s going to be really good.”
On Wednesday the lumber company, along with other businesses and an apartment complex on Grady, had their water shut off for three to four hours. On other days there have been unexpected power outages.
The focus of work now is on Grady around Osborne Avenue and South Street, with only local traffic allowed to use the road. But at times heavy machinery blocks the road. One day Peninsula Lumber customers were confronted with a blocked driveway and had to navigate around to the company’s delivery entrance.
Sarai O’Quinn, who lives in the apartments, said once water was turned back on Wednesday, residents were told to boil it for the remainder of the day. “It’s kind of a hassle,” she said.
But she and apartment resident Sherry O’Quinn said flooding at the apartments -- especially in the parking lot -- has been a long-time problem. “They’ve been nice and helpful,” said Sherry O’Quinn about construction workers. “They’re doing a good job.”
Improvements to Grady, and also to Lois Avenue, were among priorities when a community-based plan was crafted about two years ago to guide Drew Park’s redevelopment.
Money for the Grady project is from city coffers and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. About $525,000 for the streetscape portion of the project will come from local property tax revenues collected within the Drew Park special tax district bordered generally by Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa Bay Boulevard, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Hillsborough Avenue.
A portion of property taxes from the district must be re-invested in community projects, generally for infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks.
Work on Grady is slated for completion in December. City officials expect to award a contract soon for work on Lois which should begin later this year. Cost estimates are just under $16 million.
The primary goal for Grady is to relieve flooding but also to beautify it with landscaping, said Jeanette Fenton, the city’s Drew Park and West Tampa redevelopment manager.
The work on Lois, which is four lanes, also will address flooding but the overall beautification will be more noticeable and dramatic than Grady’s, Fenton said. “We’re hoping it will attract investment.”
City officials and the contractors, Woodruff & Sons, have worked with business owners and residents to address complaints. “They’ve been incredibly patient,” said Fenton.
The inconveniences have been hard to deal with, said Jorge Morejon, owner of Hiline Imports. Some customers have stayed away rather than navigate the detours to reach his office and showroom of used imported cars.
Cars are washed every two days now instead of every six or seven. “There’s an inch of dust out there,” Morejon said. But he said he can’t complain.
“There’s no magical way of getting it done,” he said. “You know it’s something you go through to get the benefits at the end. We hope it was worth it.”