Businesses are hunkering down until the roadwork is over

Photo and video by Can Türkyilmaz

When the $1.3 million Lower Greenville improvements are completed at the end of this year, there will be wide sidewalks, potted plants, bike racks and on-street parking. It will be more pedestrian friendly and, hopefully, will draw more people to the restaurants and bars. For the time being, however, business on Lower Greenville stinks.

Construction crews have blocked southbound traffic from Richmond to La Vista until Nov. 26. And northbound is no picnic. It’s dusty and bumpy. The street is narrow. The sidewalks are treacherous or altogether blocked. Businesses have put up signs imploring, “WE’RE OPEN!”

“We’re all open,” says Ricardo Avila of Mextopia. “It just looks like a warzone down here.”

The Tex-Mex restaurant, at the center of the construction, has closed for lunch temporarily. Construction and business was just too unpredictable to make a lunch service worthwhile, Avila says. Co-owner Michelle Andrie says business is off 50-70 percent. But landlord Madison Partners has worked with them on rent, and they’ve helped with things like the “OPEN” banner and reconfiguring the patio.

“It’s been pretty painful for most of our tenants, but they’re also excited about having a nicer street at the end of the day,” says Jonathon Hetzel of Madison Partners. None of Madison’s tenants have closed because of construction, Hetzel says. Kush lounge has closed temporarily while it seeks a zoning variance from the city.

Clay Hartman opened his beer boutique and tavern, the Bottle Shop, on Greenville near Richmond a few months ago. He knew when he signed the lease that construction was impending. The street improvements were a selling point for him, but the construction ordeal has been more painful than he expected.

“It was fine until they closed our sidewalk for the whole month of September,” he says. “People avoid the area, and we’re not getting the typical traffic. But October has already been better.”

The good news is construction is on track to finish ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline. The sewer pipes are under the east side of the street, and most of the work on that side already is finished. So crews now are working on the less complicated west side. Business owners are holding out hope that once the street is improved, business will be better than ever.

“It hasn’t been hunky dory for anyone,” Hetzel says. “It’s temporary pain for an ultimate payoff.”

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