Starting Monday, Aug. 1, westbound Sixth Street between Central Avenue and D Street will be closed, as will the parking lot fronting businesses on that block. The closure, which is planned to last until Jan. 30, 2012, will make way for construction crews to start work on a plaza that city leaders and local business owners hope will aid the revitalization of the city’s oldest business district.
“In the end, it’s going to be beautiful,” said Elaine Pombo, who owns Elaines’ Boutique at 61 E. Sixth St., along with Elaine Bogetti.
While both Bogetti and Pombo look forward to the finished product, they and other merchants along the part of Sixth Street that will be improved worry that the construction — and loss of the parking lot — will reduce business during the 6-month project window.
“We need to have patience,” Pombo said.
But business owners agree the city of Tracy has tried its best to reach out to merchants to make the construction period as painless as possible. Construction is designed so that businesses such as Magellan’s, Vita Dolce and Elaines’ will remain open to customers.
Events like the Tracy Dry Bean Festival, fall wine stroll and Halloween and Christmas parades will be effected by the parking lot’s closure, but organizers of those events said this week that they will be able to work around the inconvenience.
Jan Couturier, the director of the Tracy City Center Association, said the city has done as much as possible to inform and help out Sixth Street merchants, including putting up signs reminding passers-by that businesses are open during the work.
That includes keeping Central Avenue and eastbound Sixth Street open during construction. Work has been organized in four phases so traffic can flow both north and south on Central Avenue without interruption — save for a temporary four-way stop at Central and Seventh Street, and intermittent delays associated with moving machinery. Traffic that would normally travel west on Sixth Street will be diverted to Seventh Street.
Andrew Malik, the head of the city’s engineering department, said the construction could be finished faster if the roads were completely closed, but that would cause too much harm to local commerce.
City engineer Kul Sharma said the city hopes all work will be finished when February rolls around, but fall or early-winter rain could push back the done date.
“We’re hoping the weather works with us,” he said.
When work is completed, a roundabout will anchor the Central Avenue-Sixth Street intersection. The plaza, which will be bordered by westbound traffic on the north and eastbound traffic on the south, will include grassy fields, shade trees, an interactive fountain and an area where bands and other groups can entertain.
The city and other organizations hope to make the plaza a focal point for events like Taste of Tracy, city-sponsored block parties and the summer music series.
Not included in the work mandate are a pavilion for the plaza — Malik said the money isn’t there to pay for that feature — and a bronze statue planned for the roundabout — the funding for which is not included in the plaza budget.
Malik said the $3.5 million for the plaza comes from the city’s redevelopment agency, which was able to sign contracts for the work before Gov. Jerry Brown abolished those agencies in an effort to divert more money to state coffers.