Residents, businesses brace for U Street corridor streetscape

Drivers beware. The U-Street corridor is officially under construction.

DDOT has kicked off a major streetscape project between 9th and 14th Streets NW. Officials say that it will make the roadway safer and more accessible with a smoother road surface and wider sidewalks.

Residents along U-Street seem to support the increasingly popular nightlife corridor getting a facelift.

But business owners are worried about the short-term impact.

If you ride down the street you can see the pavement is in distress, says Terry Bellamy, DDOT director. “You can see in some parts we have substandard sidewalks we want to improve.”

A few business owners still remember the major challenges created by Metrorail construction here in the 90s. They hope this project will be less painful than that one.

“We were able to hold on because we owned the property and we have a beautiful subway system now,” says Virginia Ali, first lady of Ben's Chili Bowl.

She says her restaurant has become quite the tourist attraction. But she wonders if they'll keep coming during construction.

“I think it will be detrimental temporarily,” she says. “We're hoping it will not be a long term effect. We do have a street behind us and hopefully the tour buses can come on V Street."

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To offset costs small businesses can apply for interest-free loans through D.C.'s Streetscape loan relief fund.

But some think a better solution would be temporary relief from their property taxes.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray says he's applying lessons learned from recent H Street construction to U-Street.

“I thought it was too much of an expanse that was done simultaneously and so you had betwee 3rd Street through 14th Street tied up with construction for not only months but for years,” Grays says.

Starting at 9th Street, crews will close U Street one block at a time, one side at a time.

And DDOT says the $5 million project should be done next spring.

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