In a perfect world, when the Carnegie Apartments open next May, crews will be finishing reconstruction of Dean A. McGee Avenue as it passes the front door of the former downtown library.
Judy Hatfield, who has spent years on the redevelopment, is counting on this scenario as Rudy Construction is set to start tearing up the street on Oct. 24.
But over the past three years, the Project 180 reconstruction of downtown streets has been plagued with delays that have sometimes stretched over several months, leading to the closure of restaurants and traffic headaches for pedestrians and drivers.
Hatfield swears she's not worried.
“They did Robinson on the west side of the building, and I went and looked and checked regularly to see what they were doing,” Hatfield said of the prior work. “On this upcoming work, I've already met a couple of times with the engineer, Jonathan Heusel with Tetratech, and that didn't happen before.”
Hatfield also is scheduled to meet with Rudy Construction representatives next week as part of a pre-construction meeting — another change in how Project 180 is implemented.
Add in a schedule of incentives and disincentives tied to finishing the project on time, another change, and Hatfield feels certain the street won't be a mud pit when the 19-unit apartment complex opens at 131 Dean A. McGee in April.
“It was scary when I observed the work being done (on Colcord Drive) just hours before the 75th anniversary celebration was to begin at the Civic Center,” Hatfield said. “People need to have a schedule. People need to have meetings frequently to stay on schedule. I stay organized, and I'm looking forward to Rudy Construction staying organized.”
Across the street, restaurateur Keith Paul is feeling similarly confident about the street work not causing much harm to his Kitchen No. 324. The restaurant at 324 N Robinson opened up in the renovated Braniff Building last year and has been a popular destination, especially with its weekend brunches.
Similar properties built almost a century ago have complicated Project 180 construction elsewhere downtown as crews encountered unexpected issues with basements extending under streets.
City engineers say they're certain such issues were addressed by SandRidge Energy when it renovated the building and rebuilt the sidewalk and street over the Braniff building's basement and completed Project 180 improvements adjacent to the property.
Paul also believes that the completed sidewalk, along with the city's decision not to redo the sidewalk in front of BOK Plaza to the west, will ensure pedestrians will not be blocked from accessing Kitchen No. 324.
Such issues made access to Trattoria il Centro at 500 W Main virtually impossible when crews tore up Main Street and Walker Avenue around the building. Those street projects then met long delays in getting completed. The restaurant closed, with owners blaming its demise on the Project 180 delays.
“It was awful,” Paul said. “I couldn't get there by foot, much less park within a half mile of there.”
Paul, however, is feeling assured that better communication with city engineers and contractors, and more oversight on construction schedules, will prevent a repeat of the delays and restricted access that plagued businesses during the first phases of Project 180.
Project 180 spokeswoman Shannon Cox said the construction contracts are worded differently this time around. Contractors are no longer allowed to tear up one street, and then move on to another street if they hit delays on the first job.
Utility companies also caused delays on the first streets by not moving their lines in coordination with contractors opening up street access. This time around, Cox said, utility companies are being given strict deadlines for moving lines.
“We've met with all the utilities and given them a time frame and when they can get in there,” Cox said. “The contractors will leave the street open for the utilities. But if they don't meet their deadline, we will move forward. We won't wait on them … We will make the improvements for them and tell them it will be done to our standards.”
The city also will use concrete barriers to better protect pedestrian passages, compared to the previous use of flags or cones.
Paul, meanwhile, has arranged with SandRidge Energy to provide 30 parking spaces in its garage just to the west of the Braniff Building to Kitchen No. 324 at night and during weekends.
Until now, the restaurant has relied on 25 nearby curbside spaces — parking that will be lost during street reconstruction.
“The city has explained to us what their plan is for construction on Robison and Dean A. McGee,” Paul said. “They were very upfront, they talked about incentives, things they've learned in the past and how they've inconvenienced businesses. They've figured it out and they want to be proactive.”
May 2014: Opening of the Dean A. McGee/Robinson intersection to north-south traffic. Opening of the McGee/Robinson intersection to all vehicular and pedestrian travel.
Summer 2014: Opening of the Kerr/Robinson intersection to east-west traffic.
Fall 2014: Opening of Robinson between Dean A. McGee and Park, including the Kerr/Robinson intersection, to all vehicular and pedestrian travel.
Winter 2014: Opening of Kerr between Harvey and Robinson to all vehicular and pedestrian travel.
Spring 2015: Opening of the NW 4th/Robinson intersection to all vehicular and pedestrian travel.
Spring 2015: Opening of Kerr between Robinson and Broadway to all vehicular and pedestrian travel.