MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Construction might soon begin on a long-awaited road improvement project for Elvis Presley Boulevard, but that is not the first time residents have heard this, so many say they will have to see it to believe it.
The street with a star-studded name has been set to get a $35 million facelift for years. But the Elvis Presley Boulevard Road Improvement Project has been plagued with delays like the city not starting to acquire right of way as it had claimed, then having to start over on acquisition paper work, after filling it out wrong.
"Well you gotta go to the state, and they have to approve it," said Chuck Strong, who has lived and worked in Whitehaven for 30 years and owns Piano's Flowers and Gifts. "They did wrong paperwork and nah, nah, nah, nah, nah ... Well, and we're still sitting here."
He said Whitehaven is a strong community, but real growth, he said, has been stymied by the lack of progress on Elvis Presley Boulevard.
"The things that could happen here are precipitated by that highway," he said.
The good news is the long-awaited road improvement project is much closer to construction.
Public Works Director Robert Knecht said right of way acquisition for the first phase is complete, and they've already received bids on the project.
"January, February, March, depends on the weather conditions, obviously, but in the spring time we foresee construction to start," Knecht said.
Construction could start in the spring for phase one, which runs from Brooks Road to Winchester Road. The process starts from scratch for each phase, the second covers Winchester to Craft Road.
"Once we get to completion with those construction plans, then when can submit it to the state and get notice to proceed, Knecht said. "Only then, once we have notice to proceed, can we move forward with the right of way acquisition for those 60-plus property owners."
The city will repeat those steps for the final phase of the project, from which runs from Craft Road to Shelby Drive and then reach out to business owners like Strong and Vontyna Winfrey, who owns Nails Plus, across from Dodge's.
Winfrey said she's excited but also concerned about what the actual construction phase will mean for business.
"We've been looking forward to it because I know when they do make the changes, it's going to be traffic and people not being able to get in and out." she said.
Knecht says he understands these concerns.
"There are gonna be challenges," he said. "We are just asking citizens to be patient."
Patience is exactly what residents like Strong seem to have run out of.
"When I see bulldozers down there, call me again, and then I'll tell you," he said. "Because I can't give you an exciting answer because I haven't seen anything happen."
Knecht said the city hopes to schedule a community meeting this winter or early spring to provide an update on the construction timeline.