A makeover for Hamilton’s Union Street has been welcomed by businesses in the area.
The job covers only the western edge of the block across from the Bermuda Industrial Union, but the commitment was welcomed by consultant Leon O’Brien, who said the area was “one of Hamilton’s hidden gems”.
Mr O’Brien, whose business is near Union Street’s junction with Dundonald Street, added that even small improvements would be “good for business here”.
He said: “We’ve been in this location for 18 years because we’ve always believed in Union Street.
“I’m glad to see that the mayor is paying attention to the back of town — it needs attention.”
As well as a fresh brick-patterned sidewalk, the overhaul includes new street lighting, grates around trees and overhead cables being moved underground.
Mr O’Brien said the area was viewed as dangerous when “in fact there is very little crime”.
He added: “This will help people feel safer coming here. We have great businesses in this part of Hamilton, just like Front Street, and there is great potential.
“The only way we can solve unemployment is by uplifting areas like the back of town. There are people who don’t fit the bill for Front Street, but people in this area will give them a chance.
“Small businesses are the engine for success here. You have to be part of this community to make it work.”
A senior citizen, who grew up along Union Street, said: “It was a well knitted neighbourhood — over the years people have moved out and left the area.”
The man pointed out cracks in the sidewalk and added: “Everybody back this side pays taxes when it comes to the Corporation of Hamilton and they are supposed to maintain the sidewalk.
“When it comes to this side of town, they have not done anything.”
Kylah Forth, manager of the Liberty Theatre, said the upgrades would be “good for customers — especially the lights”.
He explained: “We only have the lights on our building. At night it gets pretty dark, so it’s good to see this move.”
Earlene Pitcher at Irmani’s Hair and Nails on Union Street said she was “sure it would look nice”,
But she added she would reserve judgment until the work was completed in around six weeks time.
She said: “I’ve been around for 22 years. Business goes up and down. Will this help? It would be nice if I could say yes. We’ll see.”
Ian Hind, senior engineer for the city, said the upgrades followed an ongoing review of Hamilton’s streets.
He added: “We survey all the sidewalks and score them one to five, with five being extremely poor. Each year, we target to refurbish and repair the fives.”
Mr Hind said the upgrade will not take away parking bays and a wider western sidewalk will take advantage of the extra street width on the block between Dundonald and Victoria Streets.
He said: “We need to increase the space for wheelchairs and prams. It’s also just in bad shape as the trees have matured, which is a hazard for pedestrians.
“In the process we’re getting rid of the unsightly poles and putting up tall black street lights with LEDs. But the most important item is renewing the sidewalk.”
A raised pedestrian crossing will also run across Victoria Street to Joell’s Alley.
Mr Hind admitted other areas of Hamilton needed attention but work was “based on a certain budget”.
He said: “We continually assess the city and keep a register that covers everything, including the roads and sidewalks.
“We’re slowly going around Hamilton dealing with our worst scenarios as a priority.”