BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The long-awaited Orange Avenue construction project is just about complete. City and residents will be glad when it’s complete but for different reasons.
The City of Daytona Beach estimates that the final pavement will be placed by the end of the first week in January. The project began in June 2014 and was originally scheduled to be completed in July 2016.
The completion timetable for the $13.4 million project was pushed back to September, then November.
The roadwork was done to improve roads, storm drainage, replace old water pipes, widen sidewalks, increase lighting, signage and parking.
Reasons for delay
“We recently did a TV ad and mentioned the Orange Avenue project. For years, the county owned the road and did nothing with it. The city got it and fixed it. It is an important interest to the city. It is an important gateway to Midtown, City Hall, downtown and our beaches,” said Frank Van Pelt, the city’s technical director.
Van Pelt told the Times, “Most of the delays with this project have been unknown underground problems that you don’t know exists until you start digging.”
Construction is still ongoing around the areas of Marion Street and Seagrave as well as areas around City Hall and downtown.
“It’s just a matter of underground power lines with Florida Power & Light (FPL). They had a setback with the hurricane (Matthew). We’re working on options to get back on track. We can’t finish this until FPL is done. There is also an underground pipe that needs to be replaced around Palmetto Avenue and City Hall,” Van Pelt said.
Just last week, the road was repaved between Nova Road and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., rekindling old frustrations.
Local businesses are still upset with the pace of the project.
“The entire construction period was terrible. When they first started, I had two customers who are retired construction workers come in here and told me that they weren’t done. They pointed out the concrete around the manholes and the small sizes of the storm drains,” said Danielle Kaeufer, owner of Daytona People’s Medical Supply & Uniforms.
“They didn’t do it right the first time. Last week, they fixed it but it was terrible. Both Keech Street and Caroline Street were blocked off,’’ Kaeufer added.
Many businesses felt an economic squeeze throughout construction.
“I’m happy that they’re almost done, but it has been tough. It really threatened our businesses and livelihoods. Last week, when they repaved the road, I would have appreciated if someone would have notified us before they started,” said Patricia Cadette, owner of Styles 101 Beauty & Barber Shop.
“Mr. (Tommy) Huger did come tell us but they were already starting. There is one way entrance to get in here and they had it closed. They could do a better job of putting up signs and emails,” Cadette added.
George Mikhei, who owns Family Technical Group, noted, “They keep promising us. We did lose money. My tech guy had to relocate because he wasn’t making enough money to cover rent. I will be closing this location. I am happy with the lighting. The second pavement is so far so good.”
Even those who seem to be doing the best has suffered like Orange Avenue Mini Market.
“Of course I am glad that it’s almost done. We actually have lost a lot of money going back to the beginning, especially groceries and meats. I’ve never seen any road construction take so long. It looks like we’re making money because a lot of people are coming in, but they are mostly buying beer and tobacco products,” owner Juan Garcia told the Times.
The city is aware of both frustrations with businesses and residents.
“We understand that any time you build and have any kind of construction, especially with delays that it will inconvenience some folks,” said Van Pelt.
Several businesses filed a lawsuit against the city citing lost income as the main factor.
These businesses include Styles 101, Cut Masters Barber Shop, The Medicine Shoppe, Boost Mobile, Churches Chicken, Daytona People’s Medical Supply & Uniforms as well as The Liquor Store.
In August, the case went before a judge but continues in January. The City of Daytona Beach will not comment on a pending lawsuit.