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Business as usual

By Michael Butler

There are a lot of ongoing renovations in Tallassee. Progress requires patience. Those who travel across the Benjamin Fitzpatrick Bridge and through the downtown district can attest to that.

While the bridge work is in the early stages of an estimated 18-month project, the downtown improvements are expected to be completed around the first of the year.

"It's about 10-15 percent done," Mayor Sarah Hill said. "We're looking at the streetscape project being done sometime in November. Then will do the asphalt paving. We're looking at that around January as fully finished."

Some of the infrastrucure upgrades are done. Hill highlighted what remains.

"All of the sidewalks downtown, the lamps, the lighting, the handrails, the wheelchair ramps, the greenery will be so nice," she added, "It won't be where you have to watch where your stepping every second."

Plowing up the roads on Sistrunk and James Streets started the process. The area is now a work zone, but businesses have remained open. To avoid delays with access to businesses like Grove Station and Sistrunk - All Things Desired, James Street is now open to two-way traffic.

"It used to be one-way," said Sistrunk owner Kami Scarborough, who has adjusted her store hours temporarily from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturdays. "I know that with the construction downtown and the bridge work it's hard to get in, but you can go down Ann Avenue and take James Street. The construction company has assured me that they will never not allow access."

Tallassee Chamber of Commerce executive director Jerry Cunningham is optimistic as things progress.

"There are things happening," he said. "People are investing in town. It tends to be people who have a stake in town. I'm excited about the changes. I know it's been difficult for these businesses to deal with this day after day, but in the long run it's going to pay off."

Mayor Hill concurred.

"We're catching up with the times and making it safer for everyone," she noted. "It's going to be walkable and we can look at our beautiful river and all that's going on downtown. I think as we get that more beautified, more people will want to invest in Tallassee and put some businesses down there."