‘This is scary, nobody’s going to want to be down here’: Community sounds off over E. Market St. roadwork continuing until July

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The roadwork on East Market Street in Downtown Johnson City began in January. Locals said they were told it would be completed by March…then April…and now it’s May and they are demanding answers.

Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola told News Channel 11 that another project in the Langston neighborhood kept them from completing the segment of East Market Street for so long, he also said that the road won’t be finished until July.

“Water sewer went in and had to replace 100 year old lines so they finished their work. Then we began grading and then we had an issue on another project that we had to get completed, which is in the Langston neighborhood,” Pindzola explained.

He said crews hope to begin resetting curbs for the sidewalk along East Market Street Thursday morning.

“We’ll be starting on getting the curbs reset on Market Street, and then try to get asphalt on the street. By the middle of June,” Pindzola said.

But what exactly will they be working on through July?

“The first is trying to improve lighting in that area. So we’re gonna put bollards in we’ve been working with the power board. The second is, we’re gonna put brick pavers down for the parking areas to get some color in the area, obviously do some landscaping. Then we are looking at adding cameras to tighten up the security along the street. And then the fourth is to add some electrical outlet areas in order to support events that are held on the street from time to time. So all of that will take me into July,” Pindzola said.

He said crews will especially focus on lighting crosswalks at intersections to make it safer for pedestrians to cross the road at night.

“The project should be completed in July of this year. We appreciate the patience of the tenants and business owners in the area. These type of improvements do take time but the finished product should be something they should be proud of,” he said.

What’s next?

Pindzola told News Channel 11 work has systematically been done throughout downtown, but this project is a sort of new beginning.

“We are incrementally improving the streetscape of the streets downtown. So we’ve done work on State of Franklin, Buffalo, did some work on Tipton, Spring, Roan Street we did work. So this is sort of a continuation,” he explained. “It essentially will set the template for what happens on the other segments of Main and Market Street.”

The idea, he said, idea is to go to Main Street at some point in time when funding is available.

‘We need to be concerned’

Tenants and business owners on East Market Street sounded off Wednesday, complaining that enough is enough.

“I think the reason people need to be worried about this is, this is our downtown,” Tracie McCloud said, who works on E. Market St. “People need to be concerned about that you know you pay taxes. We need to be concerned, there’s something else going on. You need to worry about it, this is somebody’s front yard. I wouldn’t want it in my front yard, nobody else wants it in theirs.”

Gravel and trash has accumulated on the portion of sidewalk that hasn’t been closed due to the roadwork, making it barely impassable, according to locals.

With summer festivals around the corner, McCloud told News Channel 11 she is worried.

“The construction – we knew it was coming, we were told it would be three months, it will be done at the end of March, and then it was April, and then May, and now we’re almost at the end of May. I understand stuff happens. We all get that, but we’re looking at a whole lot longer than what everybody’s been told down here,” she said.

Apart from the construction, McCloud explained that the graffiti and foul smells, along with garbage piled along the street, are unbecoming of downtown.

“It’s definitely not something you think in the middle of downtown Johnson City, it’s not what you think it would be, you feel like you do need to carry a weapon just to come down to work on a block. That’s two seconds from, you know, downtown all the bars and everything else places to eat, places to party. Where we’re going to do the Blue Plum, all the festivals that are coming. This is scary, nobody’s going to want to be down here we need to do something about that,” she said.

She explained that the street has become dangerous.

“The cops can’t drive down the road, they would have to actually get out of their car park it somewhere safe, and then walk up the sidewalk, that’s dangerous for them as well, just like it is for anybody else because there’s corners and nooks and everything else, so they can’t drive down through here and look to see what’s going on. Citizens need to be concerned, this is going on downtown. We need to do something about it, we’re trying to do the revitalization of downtown. This isn’t revitalization, this is going backwards we have graffiti everywhere right now and we need to worry about that,” McCloud said.

‘Our sales has went down’

Taste Budz restaurant has been on the corner of East Market and South Roan Street for 21 years. Owners told News Channel 11 they have been through previous downtown revitalization projects and said they’re just hanging in there.

“”Well, it’s impacted us quite a bit, our sales has went down, especially since COVID, you know, all this stuff is happening since COVID and it has affected us quite a bit, but we continue to strive to get through it, and our business is picking up some, which is a blessing. Everybody seems to care about Taste Budz,” Elmer Washington of Taste Budz told News Channel 11.

Washington said they learned from experience to be patient with city revitalization and beautification projects.

“They told us four months, but we’re not so sure about that. The last time they were down here, we were down, we were affected for over a year, but the city has to do their job, we understand that and they’re going to beautify the place which is going to help Taste Budz quite a bit, we think, and we’re just hanging on till they finish,” he said.

Washington said he couldn’t really complain since he feels blessed for the slight uptick in business lately and looks forward to the finished product.

“I’m not going to say anything negative, because the city supports us, you know, they stop by, they eat, they understand our situation, so they feed their crew here. We’re just waiting. You know, we’re just waiting and like I said, it won’t be as long as it has been, so we’re just waiting on them to beautify the place so we can get back to so-called normal,” he explained.

However, to the vandals who have defaced East Market Street, Washington issued a plea for them to stop.

“My plea to the public or the homeless or whoever is doing it – please stop. There’s a lot of work that goes on around here to keep the place beautified, by you vandalizing, doing what you’re doing, and it doesn’t help us any. So, my plea to you is just stop it. I’d, we’d certainly appreciate it,” he added.

As for the final product, Pindzola is hopeful.

“Those are sort of the improvements to upgrade the streetscape throughout the downtown core,” he said.

Follow News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais on Facebook and Twitter for news updates.

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