Residents and business owners in downtown Beaufort are preparing for more construction, starting Monday.
City Council approved a noise-ordinance waiver Tuesday that allows JOCO Construction to start work at 7 a.m. instead of 8 a.m., giving the company an extra hour of work before most shops open at 10 a.m.
The city will spend about $445,000 to replace 65 poles and add 13 on Bay, Carteret, Craven, Charles and Port Republic streets. There are currently no poles on Craven Street or on West Street between Port Republic and Craven streets, but that will change with the new lights.
"This is going to be a wonderful project that is going to be disruptive to downtown, et al., but we're hoping it will go quickly," city landscape architect Liza Hill told a group of neighborhood representatives Wednesday.
The lights will replace the familiar "candy cane" poles with a straight design, like ones already in place at City Hall and on Bladen Street.
The lights will emit a more natural, white glow, rather than yellow light. They are expected to be easier to repair as well. It is difficult, expensive and time-consuming to get parts for the candy-cane lights, city planner Libby Anderson has said. It costs $200 to $300 per pole for repairs, according to public works staff.
Because the underground utility conduit does not meet current electrical codes, the sidewalk will be demolished and rebuilt in some places, city officials said. That will involve removing a strip about 18 inches wide, starting at the curb, that will leave room for pedestrians on the sidewalks to enter buildings. That strip, which will be filled in with bricks, has been reduced from the previous estimate of 28 inches to cut costs, according to officials.
Parking spaces will be closed block by block, as required by construction.
Construction will begin on the south side of Bay Street, at the intersection of Carteret Street, and proceed west to Charles Street. Crews will then work on the north side of Bay Street, heading back toward Carteret Street. That is expected to take about eight weeks.
The rest of the 90-day construction period will be spent on Port Republic, West, Scott, Craven, Carteret and Charles streets. All construction is expected to be done by Memorial Day, according to a news release.
Preliminary work began this week, with utility companies locating and marking water, power and other utility lines, according to a release from the city.
Main Street Beaufort, USA, is conducting a merchants meeting at 8 a.m. Friday at the Verdier House, 801 Bay St., to discuss the project. The meeting is open to business owners, downtown residents and others interested in learning more about the project. Representatives from the city and JOCO are expected.
Main Street Beaufort officials hope to "discuss positive ways to let the community know that your business is open and it is safe to come downtown," according to the meeting announcement.
Main Street Beaufort and the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce are working on plans to make the construction period easier for businesses.
Among the possibilities is the return of Main Street Dollars, a program used in 2012 to boost business sales, Main Street executive director LaNelle Fabian said. Shoppers could buy up to $100 worth of certificates at half price and use them at dozens of participating stores.
"It's going to be all about perception, so what we want the public to know is, 'Yes, everybody is open; yes, it is safe to come downtown, and once it's all done, everything will look better,'" Fabian said.
Fabian said officials intend to reuse the "Downtown Beaufort is open for business" signs that went up this summer when Bay Street was closed for repaving.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.