The end of a lengthy three-block road and streetscape project in Phenix City is drawing to a close, city Finance Director Steve Smith said on Tuesday.
Third Avenue, which runs along the Chattahoochee River from 13th Street to 16th has been under construction for more than a year. The $3.24 million project has had two lengthy delays because of unforeseen issues, Smith said.
When the street reopens in the next couple of weeks, it will be called Whitewater Avenue, a nod to the rapids and urban white water course next to it.
“Any time you dig in Phenix City, you find some 100-year-old something that you didn’t know was there,” Smith said.
The first delay resulted from contaminated soil on the site of an old gas station at the 14th Street corner. There was also an issue with a 100-year-old sewage pipe found on the northern end of the construction project.
“The Environmental Protection Agency stopped work for about three months,” Smith said, citing soil contamination.
It cost an additional $320,000 to deal with the two unexpected issues, Smith said. That drove the total cost over $3 million. About half of the project, $1.5 million, was funded out of the city’s capital budget, which comes from bond proceeds. The remainder came from the city’s general fund. In addition to the road work, the utility lines are also being buried.
Two private entities, the W.C. Bradley Co., and RAM Hotels, contributed to the project. Columbus-based W.C. Bradley, which owns the Phenix Plaza shopping center and the riverfront property between the 13th Street and 14th Street bridges, gave the city $150,000. RAM, a Phenix City-based hotel developer that owns the Courtyard Marriott at the base of the 14th Street bridge, chipped in another $30,000.
The city has also invested $2.8 million in a 192-space parking deck across from the hotel.
The city is planning a series of fall events to showcase the new avenue. On Sept. 1, there will be a street dance to celebrate the opening. The music will go to 9:30 and then there will be a laser light show off the top of the parking deck.
On Sept. 17, there will be an Alabama Blues, Brews and Foods festival. On Oct. 1, there will be a family play day on Whitewater Avenue, and on Oct. 14 there will be another street dance.
Matt Patel, executive vice president of RAM Hotels, said he looks forward to the road and streetscape project being completed. The hotel has been open almost two years and much of that time the street has been torn up.
“It will be less turns to get to us,” he joked.
Despite the inconvenience, it has not had a huge impact on business, Patel said.
“This project has always been talked about and it is an amenity that will only make the hotel better,” Patel said. “Once it is done, it will have a significant impact and it will create a sense of destination.”