BY ANDREAS BUTLER
With construction on Orange Avenue still going on, the City of Daytona Beach is planning another road construction project on a major artery in the heart of the Black community.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard Roadway and Pedestrian Improvement Project will cover the area along the boulevard between Orange Avenue and International Speedway Boulevard.
“This is not a large project. It’s kind of a small project, but it’s still an important project. We really need to replace the pipes and utilities in this area,” Scott Van Pelt, Daytona Beach’s technical services director said at a meeting on June 16 at the Dickerson Community Center.
City officials hope to establish communication and avoid problems that occurred with the Orange Avenue project.
“We expected more business owners here,” Commissioner Paula Reed said about the sparse crowd at the meeting. “We want to communicate better with the community. We will do another meeting for this project next month. We had meetings for the Orange Avenue project but those meetings weren’t always accessible for the business owners.’’
L. Ronald Durham, the city’s special projects manager, also mentioned the lack of attendance. The meeting was held at the same time as the Juneteenth banquet at the Midtown Cultural and Education Center.
“We want to make sure that we do a good job of communicating with residents and businesses.
Unfortunately, the scheduling of this meeting slipped under us. It was unfortunate, but we’re happy that we did have some residents and businesses come. Their input was insightful.’’
The next public meeting on the project will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 7, at the Dickerson Center.
Concern for businesses
Residents still have a sour taste in their mouths from the slow pace of the Orange Avenue road construction project. They hope that the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (MLK Boulevard) project goes more smoothly.
“The Orange Avenue project isn’t complete. Even the new roads are still dangerous and bumpy,’’ commented resident Constance Pope. “Even the lighting isn’t complete. I’m concerned for business and residents. I hope that this project doesn’t take long like Orange Avenue.”
Hemis Ivey, a local businessman and former chairman of the city’s Midtown Redevelopment Area Board added, “This has been planned for a long time. What hurts our community is a lack of businesses. This part of the community still pays taxes. We can come up with creative ways to fund this project. We need the city to fund this project completely. We need this project done correctly so it can be a grade A-One project in our community.’’
Some owners of small businesses on Orange Avenue are have sued the city, seeking damages for money and business they lost during the extended road closures and confusing detour routes.
Advice from teens
Even the youth weighed in on the MLK Boulevard project.
Members of the Daytona Beach Teen Leadership Council attended the meeting and gave their concerns.
“We need to make the community a good place for the youth. We need good influences as well. We need to demolish old buildings and bring in businesses and jobs,” said Destiny Jeffrey, 16, the group’s vice president.
The group’s president, 17-year old Travis Johnson added,” We need to fix up our parks, get them up to safety standards and provide them with water fountains. We also need speed bumps or to find away to stop people from speeding through neighborhoods, which is a hazard to everyone.”
Both Jeffrey and Johnson attend Spruce Creek High School.
The Teen Leadership Council aims to empower teens to recognize their full potential as citizens and future leaders of the community. They promote social and economic development. The group also serves as advocates, volunteers and strive to work with businesses, youth and other organizations to service the surrounding communities.
The MLK Boulevard project won’t commence until Orange Avenue is completed, which will be anywhere between September to November depending on the weather.
Orange Avenue road work is still taking place between MLK Boulevard and Seagrave Street.
The MLK Boulevard construction project is scheduled to take nine months with estimated road section closures lasting between one to three weeks. The project is estimated to cost between $1.3 to $1.5 million.
“The bad news is there will be some road closures, but we still plan on having accessibility to businesses as we only plan to close sections and have detours directing traffic to alternate routes,” Van Pelt explained.
The purpose of the project is to replace water lines, which includes drinking water, sewage and drainage.
According to the city, many of these pipes underground are outdated, mostly made of clay and anywhere between 40 to 50 years old.
The project will improve roadways, widen sidewalks from six to eight feet and move utility poles to the backside of sidewalks away from the road.
New parking also will be constructed with a creation of a new parking area that will have 16 new spaces along with at least one handicapped space.
The city plans to create a Facebook page to show updates and photos.