Over the next two years, Abram Street is going to be a mess.
A two-year rebuild of the street between Cooper and Collins streets in the heart of Arlington’s downtown will begin in February.
“At the end of the day you know it will be great — it’s the in-between that’s going to be tough,” said Randy Ford, owner of J. Gilligan’s Bar and Grill in Arlington. “I just hope they’re not doing construction in front of my place next April when the NFL draft is going on.”
The centerpiece will be between City Hall and Levitt Pavilion, where it will create a city plaza. It won’t be as large or as ornate as downtown Fort Worth’s Sundance Square Plaza, but officials hope it will have a similar impact.
“It will add an extra polished look,” said Patti Diou, executive director of the Levitt Pavilion that sits across the street from City Hall. “It will really have the feel of a nice, beautiful plaza.”
The money was part of a 2008 bond election in which Arlington voters approved including $21.96 million to rebuild Abram Street from Cooper Street to the Grand Prairie city limit. The portion from Grand Prairie to Collins has already been completed.
But the most dramatic portion will occur in downtown Arlington.
“The idea is to create a very pedestrian-friendly atmosphere,” said Keith Brooks, assistant director of public works and transportation said at a recent city council work session.
Already, the Levitt Pavilion draws more than 130,000 visitors for its more than 50 shows annually. With the improvements, those numbers could grow even larger as more residents move downtown.
“We’re the central gathering place for everyone, because our shows are free,” Diou said.
The re-done street will include barriers that will be raised automatically for concerts and other events at the Levitt, rather than the temporary ones used currently for shows.
Like Ford, Diou said enduring the two years of road construction will be a challenge.
“I think there could be a point on the limit of the size of the band we can book,” Diou said. “We’ll know more once we get into it.”
At a recent meeting, City Councilman Robert Shepard expressed concerns that the rebuild could negatively impact downtown restaurants and retail stores. If the rebuild moves as slowly as the reconstruction of East Abram Street, it “could be catastrophic” to downtown businesses, Shepard said.
The construction will impact businesses, Brooks said, but incentives will be worked into the contract to hopefully lessen the construction time.
At the same time Abram is being rebuilt, the Levitt will be undergoing its own renovation as it adds permanent restrooms and a hospitality center in 2018. Construction in front of the outdoor pavilion, which has both a spring and a fall season, is scheduled to take over the first year of the rebuild.
“The spring is going to be fine but the fall may be when we start our own construction,” Diou said. “The hard part is this year is our 10th anniversary.”