Construction break is welcome news

October 26, 2009 4:19:43 PM PDT
The ongoing construction along Kirby, just north of the Rice Village shopping area, has been a major headache for drivers and business ownersThe construction on a section of Kirby south of the Southwest Freeway is scheduled to come to a permanent end next August. In the meantime, there's good news for shoppers and merchants ? a temporary halt to the construction, just in time for the holidays.

Variety Fair 5&10 in Rice Village has been in Kathy Irby's family since it opened in 1948, and the construction on Kirby Drive has counted as one of her biggest headaches.

She said, "It impacts our traffic and of course, our registers."

That $6.6 million improvement has since moved to the next phase north on Kirby from Tangley to Wroxton. Irby is happy it no longer intersects Rice Boulevard, where her business is, and she's happy to see customers coming back.

"It started to come back, you know," she said. "What we're having to do right now is we treat anybody who walks in our door as if they're family."

The City of Houston Public Works Department says construction on Kirby will come to a temporary halt November 1 to January 15, to bring in more shoppers for the holidays.

Alvin Wright with the Public Works Department explained, "For the most part, what we're going to do is halt construction, make sure that there's accessibility to those businesses."

But some merchants are still suffering a case of construction fatigue, like the manager of Smoothie King, blocked in by construction barrels.

"It is not busy," said manager Linda Whittington. "Our sales are down about 50 percent due to the construction out here."

The folks at the new My Fit Foods are looking forward to a holiday hiatus.

Manager Jeb Hutton said, "It's a big challenge for us. We haven't even been able to do a grand opening."

Meantime, Irby expects Smoothie King and My Fit Food customers will come when construction is gone, just like hers slowly are.

"We're a wonderful little community here," Irby said. "We support one another."

The construction on Kirby stops for the holidays November 1 to January 15 and comes to completion next August. Public works officials tell Eyewitness News this project is both on time and on budget.

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