By Amanda Newberg | email@example.com
Photo By Gorge gallardo
Aviles Street in historic downtown St. Augustine is considered the oldest street in the nation. For the past few months, the street has been closed to vehicle traffic as construction workers resurfaced the road and made room for a sidewalk as part of a revitalization project approved by the city commission.
Plans for the resurfacing and revitalization project began late last year. Because Aviles Street dates back so far, it is considered an archeological zone. St. Augustine’s Archeological Preservation Ordinance requires that all construction covering more than 100 square feet or in an archeological zone must first undergo an archeological dig to ensure that nothing historical will be disturbed.
The archeological dig for Aviles Street uncovered bullet casings and other artifacts, but nothing that would interfere with construction.
The road was closed to vehicle traffic on Aug. 2, although it has remained open to pedestrian traffic during all phases of construction. Construction includes eliminating street side parking on the right-hand side to make room for an extended sidewalk that will allow for curbside dining and installation of new lighting fixtures.
Reuben Franklin, the Engineering Project Coordinator for the St. Augustine Public Works Department said that there were public safety concerns because of the state of the road, but that the main reasoning behind the project was revitalization of the street and a hope to increase traffic to businesses on the road.
While the city hopes to increase interest in and traffic to the street, they did realize that the construction could have an impact on the businesses that rely on the regular flow of traffic. Franklin said, “We wanted to keep the construction period to 45 to 60 days because we know that it really does affect businesses.”
Manny Herrero, the owner of La Herencia, a restaurant that could benefit from the curbside dining, said that the road closure has affected his business in a noticeable way, but that his regular, local customers have found ways to get to his restaurant. The restaurant has been able to stay open throughout the construction, although Herrero was unable to open one day when construction was taking place right outside his restaurant.
Although construction has affected many of the businesses on Aviles Street, they have remained open and optimistic about the project. Jessica Ellington, an employee at Bolero and Cool Beads, a boutique on Aviles Street, said that there have been many customers coming in and asking about the construction going on outside. “It does affect our business, but we know that once the street reopens it’ll be a lot busier,” Ellington said.
Construction is slated to be finished by the end of September. The city has planned a ribbon-cutting ceremony to take place at 4p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1. Aviles Street business owners will be participating in the reopening and have planned a “Running of the Bulls” theme for the night. Both the city and business owners expect the night to be a big draw for locals and tourists alike, as it coincides with the monthly First Friday Art Walk.