Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Closed With Plans to Reopen Even Better Friday

Both O'Charley's and the southbound ramp from Route 13 to Interstate 57 are closed this week for reconstruction.

O'Charley's plans an upgrade of their restaurant. The remodeling inside will cost a bit of seating space, but should make the dining experience less crowded. Based on the drawings posted inside, the entrance will be transformed into a more visible white tower with the green stripe at the top to see of the name better.

Meanwhile work on the highway progresses to a point that it's becoming clearer how the diamond interchange will work underneath the overpass. There will probably be a wreck or two as drivers get used to the switch from the temporary two intersections and stoplights to the single set of lights.

The reconstruction of the I-57 interchange at Exit 54 began two years ago and should quickly draw to a completion if the weather will cooperate.

The biggest downside is the still incomplete Morgan Avenue interchange. The intersection rebuild only includes the ramps up to the immediate area of the overpass. The project to add another two-lane overpass and connect the other two ramps to the new road has been taking its time as the state has to overcome roadblocks in acquiring right-of-way on Morgan between the highway and Carbon St.

When finished Morgan Avenue will consist of four lanes between the interstate and Carbon with two additional left turn lanes from Morgan into the STAR Bonds area at Stanford and Carbon Streets.

One good thing about all of the construction, it's helped at least one hotel in town. Between road crews and contractors in town for the power plant work at Lake of Egypt the owner told me he's had the best two months' occupancy he's ever experienced with monthly rates over 90 percent.

As to the restaurant (which has some of the best rib-eye stakes around) O'Charley's has changed tacks in the last couple of years with a focus on spiffing up its existing restaurants. A story last year in the Florida Times-Union posted on the company website quoted company president Mickey Mills as saying, "It was just dated."

The chain of 213 restuarants (down 20 since 2008), has been modifying its menu, adding Free Pie Wednesdays with a purchase of a meal, and developed a new modernized logo, the first change in 40 years.

The chain planned updating 40 to 50 locations last year at a cost of $200,000 to $300,000 each. Marion's store is presumably in the same price range.

Both the restaurant and the southbound ramp will remain closed through Friday and are scheduled to be reopened Saturday in time for Memorial Day weekend.

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