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Sidewalk overhaul has lingering effects

Business owners fear construction drove customers away

Posted: November 4, 2009 9:56 p.m.
Updated: November 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Mimi Hiller restocks the shelves at her store, Cookbooks Plus, in Newhall.

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Some downtown Newhall business owners said they are still feeling the lingering effects of the city’s streetscaping projects, which they said drove away customers months ago — and they fear some haven’t returned.

In the aftermath of the city’s streetscaping projects, some Newhall business owners said they fear customers aren’t returning to downtown, even though construction finished more than a month ago.

“The final product is beautiful, but it took way too long to complete,” said Don Gruberger, an owner of Work Boot Warehouse on Main Street. “There was a big loss of business to everyone in that area. It was frustrating, to say the least.”

City engineers, meanwhile, said they did everything they could to finish construction quickly and limit the inconvenience.

The first phase of the project included two blocks on Main Street between 6th and 8th streets.

And while a second phase of construction on Main Street up to Lyons Avenue is planned, the city doesn’t have funding ready for the project yet.

The first phase began in the middle of March and was originally scheduled to finish in July. It was ultimately completed in early September, after the city decided to expand construction to complete both blocks, said Monica Fernandez, who managed the project for the city.

Expanding construction was a way to complete the project more efficiently, she said.   

The city spent $2.3 million to completely overhaul the street by installing new asphalt, sidewalk and landscaping, Fernandez said.

Besides losing customer parking and sidewalks, Gruberger said the city did not do enough to make sure the construction company eliminated dust and noise — some of the nastier side effects of streetscape construction.

Contractors were required to use water trucks and street sweepers to help deal with dust and debris, Fenandez said. Other construction projects, not involved with city streetscaping, added to noise and traffic congestion. The city also kept parking spaces across from the construction to ease traffic problems, she said.  

Carlos Marroquin, the owner of Planet Soccer, said he was hit hard during streetscape improvements. He has pictures stored on his cell phone showing piles of asphalt, mud and concrete in front of his store. He estimates his business lost about $200,000 during construction, which virtually eliminated foot traffic in front of his store.    

The owner of Cookbooks Plus, Mimi Hiller, said she also endured a loss in business. While it has picked up a little since construction finished, streetscaping will begin benefitting businesses only after the city finishes the second phase of construction and promotes downtown events better. Once the streetscape is completed, the north edge of downtown will be more inviting to patrons, she said.  

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