We previously mentioned that driving downtown Abilene this year would challenge the best NASCAR drivers on the road track.
Street closures, lane swerving, cones, blinking lights…Oh my God!
These, of course, were necessary because of the work to fix the broken concrete blocks on our streets. Some expected new streets with bond money, but this was a major correction task.
Going is smoother.
When the jackhammer dust was finally cleared, there was work to be done on some streets either to create a parallel stop or to get back into the parking lot. The goal was to add more space downtown.
With downtown booming again, and events and destinations calling for traffic, parking spaces are becoming scarce. We are not used to walking, so it became a problem.
This work again clogged the streets, and from our office on Pine Street we heard our share of brake screeching, screeching, and, at times, the sound of metal hitting metal.
Or, at least, hit the plastic with the plastic.
After all this work, let’s start some more.
Cedar Street between Fifth Street and Sixth Street is closed. One street to the east, Cypress, became two-way instead of one-way for the block.
We have started the much awaited conference hotel project.
A temporary safety fence has been installed in the block that will now be built. The prohibition was cleared over time even during the planning of the hotel.
Longtimers will remember that there was a Greyhound bus stop at the corner of North Sixth and Cedar. Until recently, the city’s water utility office was on the corner of Sixth and Cypress, until moving with other city departments to the former Kmart site in West Abilene.
With more demolitions, including that of the Civic Plaza Hotel, the north end of downtown is more open than it has been in years.
The hotel project will last from 18 to 24 months. Most say 18 months is more likely, but we’ve seen during the pandemic that even the best plans are subject to supply chain and worker pool issues.
We were told that at some point a large crane would be brought in and it would change the skyline as the hotel rose.
This will be seven floors with enough for 206 rooms, a swimming pool, patio bar, meeting space, ballroom and restaurants. It will consist of six floors of rooms above the so-called “platform” located at ground level.
The car park will be processed as some are lost on the hotel site.
Hopefully, there will be more demand for parking.
Construction will continue until 2022, with the goal of opening the hotel in 2023.
This enters a two-year period during which McMurry will celebrate his 100th birthday, the old Abilene High School will reopen as Abilene Heritage Square, and the Cowboy Band at Hardin-Simmons University will celebrate 100 years of cow herding.
So for those of you who have endured downtown road construction, well, congestion is ahead. We will have to get used to entering the convention center from what some still consider the ‘back side’ as it faces away from the city centre. There are plans to upgrade this portal.
After all, with a new hotel aimed at attracting visitors to the convention center, we need this facility, now over 50 years old, to shine.
This work can affect rallies and other events, so be aware of changes.
And be grateful that something in the pipeline will finally come to fruition.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Hotel construction will require more downtown driving skill