The University Avenue reconstruction and resurfacing project may get an A+ for being on schedule, but business owners are giving mixed reviews on the effects construction has had on business.
The Association of Involved Merchants met Wednesday to discuss construction problems with business owners and to find where improvements can be made to make life easier for them."I think the reason why some are doing well and some are not depends on whether their business is based on tourist traffic such as restaurants or motels. They are not doing well because traffic has been rerouted," said Linda Walton, executive director of the association.
On the other hand, she said, people will go out of their way to get to a business such as a car dealer.
Steve Clifford Motors, Shirley Wilson Seat Covers and Alhander's Hardware have all said that business has been better than average. The Pullman Inn - a bed and breakfast inn usually reserved in advance for wedding parties - has had good business as well.
Stuart Smith, manager and owner of Travelodge and part owner of Annie's Pantry restaurant, said walk-in business has decreased significantly at both the hotel and restaurant. "A good percent of our business comes from those who drive by and decide to stop and stay."
On Wednesday, First South and University was officially closed to traffic, and he said that will most likely affect business even more.
"When they look at a motel and see tractors in front of it, they tend to look somewhere else," he said. "This morning everyone complained about the noise. It's bad for business."
The owner of Best Value Western Inn, located off of University Avenue and Third South, told association board members that his business has completely been shut off. The hotel's manager estimates that business has decreased 90 percent.
Signs have been posted along detour routes to let people know businesses are open and rear entrances are being utilized, but some merchants say there isn't much they can do except wait for construction to end. "We have no other choice," Smith said.
The contractor is required to spend no more than 30 calendar days on each block along the construction area, which extends from Fifth South to Eighth North. A $2,000 fine is given for each additional day.
Under that schedule, work on the first block, Fifth to Fourth South, should be completed May 17, Fourth to Third South on May 24 and Third to Second South on May 31.
Along with that, excavation will start May 10 for First South to Center Street and May 17 for Center Street to First North.