SOUTHPORT, NC (WWAY) — The main strip in the seaside city of Southport has been under construction since late December and due to various bumps in the road, the work will continue throughout the middle of summer.
The work being done is the replacement of the more than 100-year-old sewer infrastructure.
Southport Mayor Joe Pat Hatem says the original completion date on the contracts was June 6, but after requesting the construction company wait until after Christmas to begin so that Bay Street wouldn’t be closed during the holidays and other delays due to weather and paperwork with NCDOT, the date has been pushed back to July 7.
Though portions of Howe Street are closed, businesses and sidewalks remain open. Some business owners are not happy with the interruption the construction has caused.
“People are even avoiding Downtown Southport altogether because they don’t want to deal with it, which is taking away a lot of traditional business that we’re used to,” Saucy Southerner Owner Matt Thorne said.
Acknowledging the project has created a nuisance for businesses, residents, and visitors alike, Mayor Hatem says it’s a brief bump in the road compared to problems that could have occurred had it never happened.
“It has been a temporary inconvenience but compared to a rupture of a pipe, or a hurricane comes and we have flooding and a rupture, you’re going to have weeks without businesses,” Hatem said. “So that’s the difference. I think our citizens understand that and I hope our businesses do and are patient with us.”
The project is moving up Howe Street, so only small portions of the street are closed at a time. It involves breaking up the road, which Thorne explains creates a lot of dust, trash, noise, and unpleasant smells.
“It’s going to take away all our outside seating and that’s just going to take so much because we’re 75% outside,” Thorne said. “The hangover from COVID, as well as the road construction, it’s almost like a one-two punch.”
Fearful that this will impact the city’s busy season, Thorne encourages people to continue coming to Southport and says the construction isn’t too difficult to avoid. He emphasizes the importance of supporting small businesses, especially as the impacts of the pandemic linger.
On the contrary, Mayor Hatem says he anticipates one of the busiest tourist seasons the city has ever seen.
“Even with the pandemic, even with the Howe St Sewer Project, because Southport is open,” Hatem said. “As I said, the businesses are there, the restaurants are open. It may not be open the way they were used to 2019 but what they’re trying to do, what we’re trying to do is protect our citizens, protect our tourists.”
The mayor stresses that Southport is open for business and welcoming visitors.
For updates on the project, visit the Howe Street Construction tab on the city’s website.