Construction crews started the next phase of the “grand street” reconstruction of Hickory Street last week, beginning with work in the Williams Square parking lot east of Austin Street.
Demolition began in part of the parking lot Wednesday, affecting downtown workers and visitors who park in spaces near Wells Fargo bank.
The entire makeover will narrow Hickory Street to two lanes, widen the sidewalks, add more bike racks, define the crosswalks, and add trees and other landscaping from the Square to the train station. Officials estimate the project will cost $3.1 million and be finished in late February or early March.
David Lowrance, whose law office is nearby, watched crews cut down and remove at least two live oak trees from the parking lot last week.
“I hate to see well-established trees cut for a few parking spots,” Lowrance said, adding that he was concerned about other trees that help shade the parking lot.
Plans presented to the Denton City Council showed that some trees will be preserved and new trees will be planted along the street.
Once the renovations in the west side of the parking lot are complete, crews will move to the east side. The renovations will change the entrances and exits to the lot. Parking spaces will also change from angled to perpendicular.
During the next phase, crews will remove Hickory’s northside on-street parking from Austin to Bell Avenue and shift the traffic to the two lanes on the south side to rebuild the north side. After that work is done, workers and drivers will be traveling on new pavement and reconstruction moves to the south side.
Residents can expect back-in parking to begin at some point during this phase, according to city spokesman Brian Daskam.
The City Council agreed to a design change that will have drivers backing into angled parking spaces on East Hickory between Locust Street and Bell.
During both these phases, the city plans to keep the sidewalks accessible. Crews will lay plywood panels over construction areas for business access.
Both the Williams Square parking lot renovations and the Hickory Street reconstruction are expected to increase available parking in the area from the current 234 spots to 320 spots.
Drivers in the area also got some relief as crews recently patched the street with asphalt. The city had crews replace aging water, sewer and electrical lines earlier this year. To keep the street open for area businesses, crews covered the work areas with rock or metal sheets.
Kevin Jones, owner of Shine It Auto Detail, said the pavement cuts and rock fill were too much for him. He changed his route to his shop, at the corner of Hickory and Industrial streets, in order to avoid the construction altogether.
Daskam said the city, not the city’s electric utility, will install the new street lights planned for the route from the Square to the train station.
Once that work is done, Denton Municipal Electric will return with special panels that will allow festival organizers to access electricity in many areas along the street.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.