Section of Macon’s Second Street set to reopen

With crews putting the finishing touches on the vision block of Second Street, it’s time to celebrate.

The block, situated between Cherry and Poplar streets, has been under construction since late July as developers work to make it a more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly area while still being a viable driving option. The project was funded with more than $1 million set aside from a special purpose local option sales tax.

“That’s what we want Second Street to be -- a more complete street,” Clay Murphey, SPLOST coordinator for Macon-Bibb County, said of the improvements that will eventually spread to the rest of the street.

That portion of Second Street has been closed since the beginning of the project, which included restructuring the road to three lanes as well as sidewalk repairs and the addition of shade trees and park benches.

Nick Rizkalla, manager of Roasted Cafe 7 Lounge, said multiple customers have told him they visited his restaurant less frequently because of the closure.

“It’s definitely hurt our business with the street being closed down,” Rizkalla said.

Cesare Mammarella owns Hot Plates Restaurant Group, which includes Ginger Stir Fry and Grill.

He estimated the restaurant, at the corner of Second and Poplar streets, has seen a 50 percent decrease in business during the closure, particularly at night. But he said he is “100 percent in support” of the goal of the project.

“I took a huge hit ... but for the greater good,” Mammarella said. “All in all, it’s going to be worth it.”

To mark the reopening of the block -- set for Monday -- Roasted, Ginger, Crazy Bull nightclub, the city of Macon and project contractor Chris R. Sheridan and Co. are holding a “Reopen the Block Party” from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday. The free event will include outdoor performances by Augusta-based band Funk You, local group Jubee and the Morning After, and local hip-hop artist Floco Torres.

“Hopefully, that gets the word out so people will see that the street’s finally going to be open,” Rizkalla said.

Also among the renovations was the addition of bicycle lanes. Rizkalla said he was glad to see that improvement because the bike lanes would make the area even more accessible to Mercer University students and others looking to use alternative travel methods.

“It looks a lot cleaner,” he said of the overall effect of the work.

Because of the bicycle lanes and an effort to alleviate issues when smaller cars park between larger vehicles, the vision block also will include reverse angle parking. Intended to increase drivers’ ability to see cyclists and other vehicles when exiting the parking area, the spaces require a driver to pass the intended parking space and back into it.

“We’re not the first place to do it, by any stretch ... but once people get used to it, I think they’re going to like it,” Murphey said.

Murphey also pointed out the additional utilities work that has gone on during the project. While street crews had the area shut down and the street surface open, Georgia Power, the Macon Water Authority, Atlanta Gas Light Co. and others were able to upgrade their grids, meter structures and water runoff systems.

“By opening up the street like we did, we were able to address a lot of infrastructure issues that, frankly, had been coming up over the years,” Murphey said.

The block officially will open to traffic after a ceremony scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.