Amid the unending saga of road construction on and around their commercial corridor, Freret Street business owners greeted with weary acceptance the latest promises from city officials that the next round of sidewalk repairs will be finished with only a few days of disruption on each street corner.
"I want to give you what you deserve, and I know at this point that [the Department of Public Works] DPW does as well," City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said. "The goal is to get it done, in and out, and never have to come back again."
The streetscape work scheduled to start Nov. 4 — after the road repaving is complete and the road is reopened to two-way traffic and on-street parking — will replace and repair the corner bump-outs between Jefferson and Napoleon avenues. It also will add decorative and functional elements to the corners, such as 48 bike racks and 16 iron trash cans, the DPW's Col. Mark Jernigan said at an informational meeting Oct. 28.
The work is intended as a do-over of a similar project in 2012 that often kept contractors in front of individual corner businesses for weeks at a time. This time, Jernigan promised a very different timeline — a maximum of eight days on any one block.
"Bottom line is we're looking at eight days per pair of intersections," Jernigan said. "We think eight days is more than enough to get the work done. I know that's not how it worked out in the original job, but this is a new contractor. ... I'm very confident they can get the work done in that amount of time." The job is scheduled to finish in March.
Mojo Coffeehouse opened just before the road repaving began, and without parking, saw its business sink so low that evenings were actually busier than mornings — the normal time that coffeehouses make their money, owner Demian Estevez said. If customers are prevented from reaching the shop much longer, Mojo may not stay open until March, he said. "If they stay on schedule and don't close the roads, it could be all right," Estevez said. "The only thing I wish is they would have given us a little break between constructions to recoup some money."