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Upcoming Eugene Street closure concerns affected businesses

Eugene Street near Bellemeade in Greensboro.
Eugene Street near Bellemeade in Greensboro.

Photo by Jeff Sykes.

A portion of Eugene Street adjacent to NewBridge Bank park in downtown Greensboro is set to close April 3 for a project to improve drainage in the area.

But those who do business along that strip are concerned about the potential impact it will have on their operations.

“Our customers won’t be able to get to me. There’s no way they’ll be able to navigate through here,” said John Hill, owner of Select Cycle, one of the businesses that will be affected. “Our customers have to bring a motorized vehicle to us, and we’ll be virtually landlocked if they close the street.”

The strip, located between Smith and Bellemeade streets, is expected to close for eight to 12 weeks, said Kristine Williams, assistant director for the City of Greensboro’s water resources department.

Lane closures are also expected on West Smith and North Edgeworth streets during construction.

“They (contractor Smith-Rowe) are going to try to speed up the construction,” she said. “They’re going to shoot for the eight weeks, instead of the 12.”

City Council in February approved the $1.7 million contract for Smith-Rowe to perform the work. The contract is still awaiting signatures from company officials, Williams said.

According to Williams, crews will be installing a 54-inch diameter storm pipe. The total length of the installation will be 950 feet. At its deepest, the pipe will be 18 feet below ground.

Williams said the stormwater pipe that currently runs through that area  was installed 50 years ago, and has deteriorated, causing some minor flooding.

Hill said he can’t recall any big problems with drainage in the area, other than some flooding that occurred one afternoon following a heavy thunderstorm several years ago, causing water to back up on the sidewalks.

Jimmy Contogiannis, owner of Acropolis Restaurant, said he has seen flooding on the street, but likewise contended “that is has been years since anything happened where it’s backed up.”

“The water came up to our door, but did not go into our restaurant,” he said.

Like Hill, Contogiannis said he’s anticipating “great hardships.”

“I’m not crazy about it,” he said. “There’s a lot of cars that use the street to get to Market, to get to Friendly, to get through downtown. And for three months no one will be able to park in front of the restaurant.”

Select Cycle and Acropolis are among three businesses on the portion that will be closed, the other being Orrell Design, a hair salon.

Hill said he doesn’t object to the development taking place downtown, but does question the timing of the streetwork, noting that a project by local developer Roy Carroll is going up on that stretch right now.

The $60 million Carroll on Bellemeade development, currently under construction, will include about 300 apartments, and a 110-room Hyatt Place hotel.

“And I had asked the city about that, if this was a problem all those years ago, why did you wait until all this development,” he said. “Could you have done something prior to that to avoid shutting down the street?”

Williams said the Eugene Street project has been on the city’s capital improvements projects list for some time, and that Carroll’s development was not a factor in the timing.

“It was just a matter of trying to do this around the same time as the (Downtown)  Greenway, so that we don’t go back and pave all these roads that were torn up and then turn around and redig them up for construction,” she said.

Carroll’s project is expected to be completed early next year. In response to a question about whether the improvements on Eugene Street had any connection to the development, Carroll’s office, in an email, stated simply “not to our knowledge.”

The construction of the Greenway itself has also been responsible for road closures downtown, including the closure of some lanes on Eugene Street, north of where the drainage project will be occurring.

Williams said she’s aware of the business owners’ concerns, and that the contractor will try to work out some accommodations.

“We ask the contractor to allow access whenever possible, allow intermediate traffic access as soon as it’s safe,” she said. “But there will be a trench in the middle of the road, and that will limit access. The sidewalk will remain open during the construction projects, and for cycles, we’re hoping that they will still be able to access along the sidewalk.”

Zack Matheny chief executive officer of Downtown Greensboro, Inc. used to have an office nearby, and said “there has been a (drainage) problem with that area for quite some time.” He has heard from business owners who are concerned, but is supportive of the project.

“There’s a lot involved in trying to navigate infrastructure,” he said. “The city has infrastructure projects all over. In downtown it’s tougher, because it’s tight, but we’ve been able to work with them on other projects, and I think we will be able to work with business owners here.”

The city will be providing some temporary parking in the area, but Contogiannis is also worried about foot traffic.

“You’ll have to go through construction, go through a lot to get here,” he said.

Because of where Hill’s shop is situated, between the other two businesses, he said customers would be unable to bring their bikes in to be serviced.

He said he might have to relocate if his customers can’t get to him.

“I don’t know how willing people are to walk through a bunch of dirt and dust and rocks to get in here, anyway,” he said. “But I need to have vehicle accessibility. People don’t just come in here on two feet, or leave on two feet. They’ve got to leave here on something. I don’t even know how I would push something out to them.”

Click here for a map of the planned detour around the construction zone.

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