The streetscape project that caused Freret Street businesses so much pain in 2012 will be repeated this fall as the city rebuilds each of those “bumpout” corners, but officials promise a quicker and smoother process this time around.
The project was intended to beautify the commercial corridor similar to Oak Street and make the street more pedestrian-friendly with large, rounded corners at intersections. It was plagued by delays, however, blocking some of Freret’s fledgling businesses for months, and by fall of last year the brickwork was already crumbling.
Josh Hartley, the Department of Public Works project manager, told merchants Monday evening at Dat Dog that the previous contractor, F.H. Paschen, will no longer be working on the project. The new contract is being finalized, and the work will begin later in the fall — likely around the same time as the Paths to Progress street repaving project is finishing up around November, Hartley said.
“There may be a slight overlap,” Hartley said.
This time, all the brick corners will be removed and reconstructed with concrete, though the basic geometry of the designs have changed very little, Hartley said. The contract will have only 90 days to do the work, and it will be finished before the 2014 Freret Street Festival on April 5, which this year drew 250,000 people.
Business owners on Freret urged Hartley to let them have more of an oversight role as the work as being performed, as their concerns about the project last year came to fruition.
“The track record of the people your department has hired is awful,” said developer Greg Ensslen.
Hartley promised to be personally involved in the project and to stay in contact with the business owners.
“I will be here very very often,” Hartley said.
The bumpout reconstruction is yet another addition to the list of construction projects that seem to enclose Freret.
- The Napoleon Avenue neutral ground cannot be crossed as a new drainage canal is being installed underneath it. That intersection is scheduled to reopen this week to east-west traffic on Freret, but will have to be closed again later in the year, according to a statement from Boh Brothers.
- On the other side of Napoleon, the Paths to Progress repaving project has already begun. It will cross to the commercial side of Freret in about two weeks, and is expected to be finished around November.
- Trees have already been removed from Jefferson Avenue in anticipation of the new drainage canal that will be installed there over the next four years.
Other Freret news
The association heard from a number of other speakers on Monday:
- A $3,000 grant from City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell’s office for crime cameras in the neighborhood has been received, and the first five of six cameras planned have already been installed near known hotspots for drugs on side streets in the neighborhood, said association board member Kellie Grengs.
- Miranda St. Pierre plans to open St. Pierre Salon at 2506 Jena — essentially on the corner of Freret — in mid-December.
- The South Broad Community Health Center at Washington and Broad, which plans to serve the Freret neighborhood, expects to open in 2014, said board chair Beth Winkler Schmit.
The association also continued discussion of its bylaws. To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below.