Wakefield construction

Crews are just about finished with restoration work along this stretch of Wakefield Drive, prompting businesses to count the days until it reopens. (Photo by Matt deGrood)

After almost a year of street closure and fewer patrons, Andy Dunn can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Dunn is a co-owner of Walking Stick Brewing, 956 Judiway St., near Wakefield Drive and is one of several business owners counting down the days until crews finish work along the stretch of road.

“I think we’re all ready to power forward,” he said.

For almost a year, crews have been at work on a multi-million dollar drainage project along Wakefield Drive – a project that has included frequent street closures since September 2021, according to nearby businesses.

But contractors are finally finishing street paving and sidewalk restoration, and should reopen the stretch of road by early September, according to Erin Jones, interim communications director for Houston Public Works.

“This project is bringing much-needed flood mitigation and storm drainage improvements to the neighborhood, and I’m glad it’s making progress,” said Abbie Kamin, a Houston councilperson whose District C encompasses Wakefield Drive.

The news comes as a boon for nearby businesses, such as Walking Stick Brewing and William Price Distilling, 970 Wakefield Dr., who have seen business slow during construction.

Dunn in a conversation with the Leader said he estimated his gross revenues during construction were down about 20 percent from what they were the year before construction began.

“It’s not debilitating to pandemic levels, it’s better than that,” he said. “But it’s not ideal, for sure.”

Bryan Clary and Zachary Hiller, the co-founders of William Price Distilling, said they were busy trying to spread the word that the street would soon reopen as a means of driving up business.

Clary and Hiller are also working with Dunn and other nearby businesses on an event they could host sometime in late September or October to celebrate reopening the street, Dunn said.

“We want to do it when the air is crisp and a little bit cooler and football is in full force,” Dunn said.

The ongoing work on Wakefield Drive is part of a $22.1 million drainage project that is only about 40 percent complete, Jones said.

As part of the project, crews are reconstructing Wakefield between Alba Road and Gold Drive to the west with new water and wastewater lines, increased stormwater drainage capacity and pavement improvements.

The city’s public works department in March 2021 estimated the project would take about two years to complete.

The plan calls for the installation of an 18-inch sanitary sewer line, 8-inch drinking water lines and stormwater pipes ranging from 24 to 48 inches.

Drainage capacity already was increased to the northeast along Alba and Brinkman Street as part of Phase 1 of the project, which cost about $23 million and was completed late in 2018. The second and third phases aim to improve drainage to the west and east, with public works previously saying flood mitigation will be maximized once all three interconnected phases are complete.

The issue with the construction is that some patrons get deterred from visiting nearby businesses because they don’t want to cope with street closures, Dunn explained. And those patrons don’t always return after the fact, he said.

“But if we promote this right, we’re in a better set up than we were before,” he said. “You’ve got craft distilleries and breweries near craft restaurants. It’s a really nice craft-centric location.”

Additional parking has also been added since the street closure, which helps reduce the trouble patrons used to have visiting businesses, he said.

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