MLK reopens, but anguish remains

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BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

After much anticipation and frustration, a major road that runs through Midtown in the heart of Daytona’s Black community is accessible to traffic again.

South Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard reopened for traffic on July 2. The road underwent improvements from Orange Avenue to International Speedway Boulevard.

The $2.6-million project was designed to completely restructure the road’s surface, update underground utilities, install new utility poles, widen sidewalks, improve lighting, install decorative lighting features and landscaping and add on-street parking to the east side of the road.

Months of delays

Construction began July 2019 and was to end by March 2020. Residents are glad to have the road finally reopened.

“I like it. It looks nice. It was really a pain moving around in this area,” said Denzel Washington.

Lost customers, money

Local businesses are also glad the road is open, but are still upset over the loss of business during construction.

Robert Itani owns Quick Tire & Automotive Repair at 224 South MLK. Itani told the Times, “It’s a great having the road back open. It feels like something new and it looks great.

“On the other hand, the construction killed our business. We lost a lot of money and customers.”

Sharon Hawkins owns Hair & Nails of Elegance Hair Salon and Rise Up Learning Center at 202 South MLK, on the corner of Magnolia Avenue.

Hawkins explained, “Our businesses took a hit. I’m not satisfied with the work. It’s shoddy. We now have no parking. We had seven parking spaces; now we have two.”

Lil Mama’s Kitchen is no longer at 200 South MLK. Owner Deborah Branch declined comment. Lil Mama’s still caters around town.

The Crab Stop I Seafood Restaurant at 240 South MLK closed during construction.

“We’re still debating about what we’re going to at that location. We took a big hit during construction,” said owner Oliver Ross. Ross also owns Crab Stop II at 933 W. International Speedway Blvd.

Substandard work

Hemis Ivey owns property at the corner of Magnolia Avenue. He cited crooked lines on the concrete, rough spots, lack of drainage and more.

“They put a light pole near the middle of a curb. They told us all utilities would be underground. They’re not! Compare this to Beach Street; they’re doing that right.

“Two projects were done in Midtown. Orange Avenue is a mess, with manholes down the middle of the street.”

Reed ‘not sure’

The project is in Daytona Beach City Commissioner Paula Reed’s Zone 6. Reed was recently reelected to another fouryear term on the commission without opposition.

About financial relief from the city for South MLK business owners, Reed said, “I am not sure. If they come and present something to us showing their (financial) losses…

“Lil Mama’s is out of that building, but I’ve tried to support it with a couple of catering projects. I would not oppose them coming to us and addressing their needs to the entire commission.”

Shoddy work ‘unfortunate’

About shoddy workmanship, Reed said, “I’ve seen it. The mayor has as well. I know things were changed several times. It’s unfortunate that work had to be corrected. I know some are still not satisfied.

“I don’t know what can be done next. I think the city feels they have done all they can do.”

Henry did not respond to calls and texts as of the Daytona Times’s press time late Wednesday night.

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