Construction at 1661 brings improvements, irritation

Construction at 1661 brings improvements, irritation
Scaffolding on the Margaret Street side of 1661 Riverside begins at the second story. Construction workers will not have to go inside the shops on the lower floor in order to renovate.

Construction has entered its final phase at the condo and retail complex known as 1661 Riverside, and it’s bringing residents and merchants both pleasure and irritation. The construction includes major repairs to the mixed-use development, which was built in 2007 but suffered from water intrusion and needed complete window and door replacements. The project started in February of last year and will stretch into May of the coming year, said John Galuppo, RLH Construction superintendent.

The complex is girded by Margaret, May and Oak streets, and construction equipment currently sits in the spots in front of the retail storefronts on Margaret Street. Scaffolding covers the façade on that side from the second story up and parking is being directed to the parking garage on the same street. Construction has affected 90 condos and eight businesses in the development.

Gunnel Humphreys, who owns Edge City in Five Points, has a condo on the Margaret Street side and said she is looking forward to the results of the construction and is not bothered too much by the fuss in the meantime.

“The only thing that’s bothered by this is my cat,” she said. “It is going to be so much better when it is done. I’m going to get hurricane-proof and sound-proof windows, and everyone says that makes such a huge difference. I adore my apartment; it is so perfect for me. The construction workers are so nice, they couldn’t be nicer.”

This is the most challenging component because it affects the businesses, which is why Galuppo said this phase was saved for last. Workers are trying to help affected businesses by directing customers to the parking garage and have even gone so far as to help shop owners take out their garbage. Some retail owners say that customers initially may have thought the stores were closed, leading to less flow.

Maria Fung, S&R Dim Sum manager, and Sonny Chen, assistant manager, said they saw a reduction in customers when the construction started on their side of the complex three or four weeks ago, but that it has improved as customers have gotten more aware. Open for only seven months, Chen worries about parking for customers.

“In the morning, when I go to work, sometimes they block off the garage, so I have to go the back way. I’m pretty sure most customers don’t want to do that.”

Galuppo said that he and his team are willing to help where they can.

“All of the people who run the businesses are decent people. If they have problems, we will help them. That’s common courtesy.”

The repairs to the building were hard-won and long in coming, The Resident reported in June of last year. Residents began moving into the building in 2007, and in 2008, Tropical Storm Faye drove rain into the building through windows and sliding glass doors with damaged or missing rims. There was a lawsuit and a settlement in 2017 with an insurance bonding company and the $6.6 million project began in February. By the time the project is done, RLH Construction will have removed stucco, stone and brick, 700-800 windows and sliding glass doors, replaced them, waterproofed them, and re-installed the buildings’ facades.

By Jennifer Edwards
Resident Community News

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