Posted 3/08/16 (Tue)
By Cecile Wehrman
With a bid opening scheduled in April and the potential for torn up streets later this spring, members of the Crosby Area Chamber last week expressed concern about access to downtown businesses.
Coupled with a slowdown in the regional economy, said furniture store owner Kay Garbel, a lack of parking or access to Main Street shops could be disastrous.
“I think of a lot of our little one person operations, they will really suffer,” she said, which is why a proactive approach on the part of the city to manage construction impacts will be so important.
“I really think they maybe haven’t considered what the impact would be,” Garbel said.
She estimated business revenue might be down as much as 30 percent in some cases.
“Right now for anybody doing business here, things have slowed down so people are already facing some tough times and then when we take away access to their stores for a few months how are they going to roll through that?” she asked.
She said similar projects in towns like Tioga and New Town can be guides for Crosby to figure out what has worked and what has caused harm.
Garbel approached the city council on the matter in February and was assured concerns like parking and access will be addressed, but that until a contractor is selected following a bid opening in April, no planning is possible.
“They don’t know where they are starting,” Garbel said at last week's chamber meeting. “There’s no discussion on that right now.”
She said she would like to see chamber members be more proactive.
Discussion centered on chamber members approaching the council again with the suggestion of a joint committee of business people and city officials to begin planning now.
“Because if we do that maybe they can act proactively rather than reactively,” said Chamber President Denise Johnson.
As well, said Garbel, the city should be involved in support ing public awareness of the project and the fact businesses are still open.
“How can we all work together to minimize the loss to the business community? How can we do a public service campaign to promote what we’re going to do and how you can still access downtown?”
She said signage that directs people to alternative parking, not just a barricade, would be an example of something she’d like to see.
“They’re going to have people parking in places that they don’t want people parking,” she said, unless the preferred solution is promoted.
Emergency routes during the project will be another issue, she said.
Though Garbel said she understands the city doesn’t even know yet who the contractor is, the city, as the customer, should be able to set some guidelines that require access to be maintained in a certain fashion.
With a spirit of cooperation, said Garbel, the project can be managed to minimize impacts.
“We want to be involved in it and we should be able to work together,” she said.