Businesses discouraged repeatedly as Water Street construction end date pushed again

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Businesses in Downtown Wilmington are no strangers to dealing with construction as the area continues to grow, but some say the long-lasting construction by the riverfront is negatively impacting business.

In 2017 the City of Wilmington and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority began the Water Street Improvement Project, replacing the underground water and sewer infrastructure, stormwater infrastructure, as well as the streetscape along Water Street spanning from Market Street to Red Cross Street.

The project is in its final phase but was originally set to be completed sometime in 2018. City Spokesman Dylan Lee says there are several reasons for the delays.

“It’s Water Street, it’s old infrastructure, it’s been subject to flooding, and there’s been a lot of various construction projects happening there so there’s a lot of moving pieces,” Lee said.

Business owners in Water Street Center have been frustrated by the project for years, and their concerns continue to grow as the project continues to be delayed. Chad Bean, the owner of Imago Hair Studio, says he believes the planning and execution of the project has been a failure.

“It’s very disheartening. There have been lots of things that have already been built in the timeframe that this was supposed to have been completed. We have a massive building right next door to us that went up in two years,” Bean said, referencing the building housing River Place Condominiums and other businesses.

To help alleviate the strain on the businesses in the Water Street Center, the city partnered with the owner of the private lot on the corner of Water Street and Princess Street to create three parking spaces customers could use. However, due to miscommunication, the spots have now been eliminated.

Tony Savas, the owner of Tugboat Tony’s, says the street closure has been negatively impacting their business for years, and it’s frustrating to see little progress being made after so long. At this point, Savas says it feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

“We’d like to stay in business and we need more customers so we can get by,” Savas said. “It’s very discouraging is basically dead down here Monday through Friday. We get the major part of our business on Saturday and Sunday but during the week people just won’t come down here because there’s no parking.”

The city says they do encourage people to support the businesses along Water Street and they are working to renegotiate with the private lot to reinstate the parking spaces. Currently, the city has four 15 minute curbside loading parking spaces located at the corner of Water Street and Chestnut Street and the corner of Water Street and Princess Street.

The construction is now set to be complete sometime in August.

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