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Marblehead merchants running out of patience for Pleasant Street construction

One lane of traffic remains closed on Pleasant Street in Marblehead as crews work to dig up the sidewalk on Thursday. (Spenser R. Hasak)

MARBLEHEAD — They look forward to an end to rusty water and low pressure, but downtown merchants said their reservoir of patience for the ongoing Pleasant Street pipe replacement project has almost run dry.

“The problem is that it is difficult for my older customers; they have to park far away. But the project has to be done,” said longtime Pleasant Street tailor Charlie Katsoulakos.

Workers spent the last few days doing preparation work for the installation of new sidewalks along Pleasant between School and Washington streets. The heavy equipment and lack of a sidewalk on Thursday didn’t keep Evolve’s customers from negotiating the construction zone to get their hair done and keep massage appointments.

Evolve receptionist Pattie Aswad tried to find the project’s bright spot even as she noted how construction noise jars the calmed nerves of massage clients and makes parking difficult.

“There will definitely be an improvement with new sidewalks,” Aswad said.

In an update sent by postal and electronic mail to merchants and residents this month and posted on the Water and Sewer Commission’s website on Sept. 19, the commission announced Pleasant Street is in its final project phase with paving work beginning.

Approved by Town Meeting in 2012, the project is intended, according to the commission, to increase the water flow rate in the storm drain system in part by removing pipes and other drainage structures more than 100 years old.

The commission said in a statement it is installing iron water pipes as part of the project to help improve water quality and water flow to extinguish fires. Drainage work associated with the project included removing sanitary sewer connections to the storm drain system “resulting in cleaner stormwater entering Goldthwaite Reservation and Marblehead Harbor.”

“The project is critically important to the town’s overall drainage system,” the commission said in the statement.

But Junji Japanese restaurant owner Akiko Aoki said the Pleasant Street project’s progress has been annoying, with heavy equipment parking in front of her small business and parking hard to find.

Aoki said her longtime local customers know where to park within several blocks of the restaurant but out-of-town diners see the construction work and assume the restaurant is closed.

“Fortunately, I have a lot of regular customers,” she said.

Aswad said Evolve received a construction update from the commission but Aoki said she is often frustrated by the lack of updated information on the work provided her.

“I never get a clear answer,” she said.

Commission Superintendent Amy McHugh said updates posted online and in the mail are detailed, adding, “We are going to be updating as we go forward.”

Preparation and paving of Spring Street, Pleasant Street from Washington Street to Spring Street, and School Street from Pleasant Street to Five Corners is to be completed, according to the commission schedule, by Oct. 15. The schedule also calls for replacing the sidewalk on the even side of Pleasant Street from Washington to School streets.


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