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Centennial Corridor demolition: impacts on neighborhoods

The big Centennial Corridor highway project is moving forward, forcing the demolition of hundreds of structures, and resulting in both positive and negative impacts.

Neighbors near Stockdale Highway and Stine Road hope the vacant houses near them will come down soon. But, customers of the nearby A1 West Barber Shop say it's a shame to lose that long-time business.

On Friday, the small shop was mostly empty. One customer tells Eyewitness News the owner just had to clear out, and turn over the keys. He said the original barber had passed the shop down to his son.

That customer got his final hair cut at the shop on Thursday.

Next to the barber shop, a business is closed, and a worker was taking notes and photos on Friday.

Just south on Stine, two houses sat empty, with fencing around the front yards where trees had been cut down, and left across the lawns.

Two doors down, Patsy Bowman said her home will stay.

"We're going to stay here, but the freeway will be in our back yard," Bowman told Eyewitness News. "We raised our children here, and it's been really nice. Till lately."

She said the freeway will take out the two houses up the street, and they've been vacant for several months. But in that time, she thinks squatters have been at the houses, and causing trouble.

"Everybody's getting robbed around here," Bowman said. "I know of three cars that have been broken into since they haven't taken the houses down." Bowman said one suspect was caught, and found riding on her husband's bicycle.

She's hoping the houses will be demolished soon.

"It looks like a war zone," she complained, "it's terrible, and they've chopped down the trees and just leave it like it is."

On Friday, a Bakersfield City official said the houses are about to come down. Real Property Manager Don Anderson said they should be removed in the next week or so.

Anderson said it'll take longer to deal with the businesses at the corner, because one tenant still has to be relocated.

"We're moving as fast as we can," Anderson said. He said city officials believe it's best to remove any vacant structures as quickly as possible.

The Centennial Corridor will eventually head west all the way to Interstate 5. It starts at about the dead-end of Highway 58.

Bowman said they've known for years their neighborhood was possibly in the path of fixing that problem.

"Since probably 1970, when they first stopped it up there, they told us that they might take our home then," Bowman said. She and her husband moved into the home in 1963.

With the current project, city officials say more than 180 structures have already been demolished.

As for eventual construction, Anderson said engineers are breaking up the big project into different components, and work on walls, streets and utilities will probably happen first.

Meanwhile, city officials say the small barber shop on Stockdale Highway will likely be torn down in about three months. They're just starting the process on that piece of property.

Bowman said houses behind them have already been taken out, and the neighborhood is certainly changing. But, she's accepted that the freeway is coming, and she'll be right next to it.

"I just hope the wall is tall enough to slow some of the noise and the smell," she said.

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