City planners expect to re-open expanded sidewalks in San Francisco’s gay Castro district by mid June, well ahead of the early October completion date for the project.
The new sidewalks will likely be ready for pedestrian use on June 17, and the area’s Castro Merchants group is planning to host a sidewalk sale Saturday, June 21 one week prior to the annual Pride weekend. The outdoor sale normally occurs in May during small business week, but due to the ongoing construction in the area, the Castro business association worked with city officials to postpone the event.
The expedited schedule for when the concrete will be poured in the widened sidewalks and ready to be unveiled is due to the project contractor deciding to push up the construction timetable. Rather than work on one side of the street on one block at a time, Marin County-based Ghilotti Brothers opted instead to work simultaneously on both the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street.
“We will have all sides under construction to finish and get out on schedule,” Alex Murillo, with the city’s Department of Public Works, told Castro merchants at their meeting this morning (Thursday, April 3).
While some Castro officials have welcomed the faster schedule, others have voiced concerns about the disruption to businesses in the area.
“It is cutting off business. I am at one-eighth of normal business,” complained David Gray, owner of plant store Hortica, who said he preferred seeing the work be done on a block-by-block basis as opposed to all at once. “It is going to be fatal for merchants.”
But gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who has championed the project and helped pass a street bond measure that is paying for the bulk of the costs, defended the decision to speed up the work.
“The sidewalk is going to be closed for a shorter time. It was going to be from June to the end of September, so instead of sidewalk work for six months it will be three months,” he said. “We know it is hard.”
After starting on the Westside of the 400 block last month, crews have now begun ripping up the old sidewalk on the Westside of the 500 block. They are preparing to next start on the Eastside of the block and then work their way back up to the 400 block. Parking has been eliminated on both blocks to accommodate the construction equipment and crews.
“The 500 block will wrap up this week on the water pipe installation,” Murillo said. “When done they will flip a turn and start going up the Eastside.”
The contract for the nearly $6.7 million project had a stop date of June 18 built into it due to the start of the two-week Frameline San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival. Running June 19-29 with multiple screenings at the Castro Theater, the festival brings in swarms of movie-goers day and night to the area.
The work stoppage will not only make way for Frameline but also for the annual Pink Saturday block party held in the Castro during Pride weekend. It takes place the evening of June 28 this year.
When crews return to work the Monday after Pride, June 30, their focus will turn to installing new street trees and other ornamental elements to the streetscape. The project is scheduled to be completed prior to the annual Castro Street Fair held on the first Sunday of October, which is October 5 this year.
The project will result in colored lighting and historical facts in the sidewalk on Castro Street between 19th and Market Streets. A rainbow crosswalk will be installed at the intersection of 18th and Castro Streets.
New street trees, an upgrade to Jane Warner Plaza, and a new bulb-out for pedestrians in front of the Human Rights Campaign store, initially the home of the late gay Supervisor Harvey Milk’s camera shop and campaign HQ, will be built.
“Trust me, when this is done it is going to look amazing,” promised Murillo.
For updates on the construction work, visit http://www.castrostreet.org/.