WENDELL — The journey from the Oliver House to Moe’s Variety Pickup convenience store covers about a third of a mile alongside – and sometimes on – Wendell Boulevard.
Wendell planners’ efforts to make that trip safer encountered some roadblocks, but the project is going in the right direction with a new plan that preserves a $60,000 Community Development Block Grant from Wake County and up to $15,000 from the town.
“We’ve already paid, and we were hoping that it would be finished by now,” town manager Teresa Piner said after the July 8 Board of Commissioners meeting. “However, we’ve had some concerns and have been unable to obtain even temporary construction easements from the property owners.”
The owners of three commercial properties – a body shop, a car wash and the convenience store – would not allow easements for the initial route, essentially blocking the project. The board chose to avoid a costly condemnation process, and the town didn’t want to lose its money or the grant.
Plus the project is important, Piner said, because “we’ve had a lot of issues and concerns of people from the Oliver House walking in the streets and riding their wheelchairs up to Variety Pickup.”
So a new plan was needed. The route will start with a crosswalk from the western edge of the Oliver House property across Wendell Boulevard to a wooded lot just west of the Mortex factory driveway, and the sidewalk will head west, tying into the sidewalk at Acts Medical Clinic, Piner said. The project won’t quite reach Variety Pickup, but it will take pedestrians close. Piner hopes the gap – from Acts Medical to the sidewalk on the west side of the Variety Pickup – eventually can be completed.
“We have enough right of way there to do it, and we’re going to put in a crosswalk,” Piner said. “It will not get them to where we want them to be, but we hope it will get them across the highway more safely. And maybe in the future someone will be able to finish that connection.”
At the Oliver House, Dennis Tony, the executive director of the 90-resident facility, appreciates the town’s persistence.
“Some of my residents do enjoy walking to the town as well as to the store, and it would make it easier and safer for them to have the sidewalk and crosswalk,” Tony said by phone Thursday afternoon.
Variety Pickup manager Mishal “Mike” Malaviya is glad his customers’ travel will be safer, and he saw another good side to the project.
“Maybe it will help bring new business to the area,” he said by phone Thursday.
For now, Piner was just glad to see the some of the original project will be completed.
“Where I thought that the project was a loss and that we weren’t going to move forward,” she said, “now it’s a positive, and we’re going to get a portion of that, particularly that area with the crosswalk. So I’m excited about it.”