JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
Businesses along the west side of the 700 and 800 blocks of Main Avenue have a new challenge most are taking in stride: Durango’s sidewalk-improvement plan.
Construction threw some businesses “quite a curve the first day or two,” said Dennis Johnson, co-owner of Stuart’s of Durango Inc.
In fact, Stuart’s had no business the first day of construction, and it was very light the second day, he said.
“We’re now approaching last year’s numbers,” but, Johnson said, “it has had an impact on our business; we’re projecting (sales) to be down overall.”
One significant issue is where customers will park during the work.
“Parking seems to be the one (big) complaint,” with the loss of about 15 spaces, Johnson noted.
Molly Noel-Barela, owner of Durango Trading Post, said the lack of parking spaces affects some people. But the bigger issue was access to the stores, because the original design for temporary access made it much harder for customers to actually get in the front doors, she said.
Business owners felt better about the project once the contractor put in planks, a boardwalk of sorts, Noel-Barela said.
She also said customer “traffic flow has been decent, but slower.”
The contractor and city “have been respectful, letting us know what’s going on,” she said. “It’s not as pathetic as it could have been.”
Noel-Barela said, “Thank God this isn’t happening in June.”
The work is adhering to a fairly tight schedule, with each work phase scheduled to last about two weeks. All construction should end for the tourist season around June 1, with work resuming after tourist season is over in September, said City Engineer Gregg Boysen.
Another temporary downside to construction was a water-main problem. After causing a break, the contractor asked Noel-Barela where the main was, and she rhetorically asked shouldn’t the city know, to which the contractor said “no.” They did find it, and the old line had a “frozen” valve, possibly from the fire of 1948, Noel-Barela said. It was fixed fairly quickly.
Gina Piccoli, president and co-owner of Coldwell Banker Heritage House Realtors, said the noise of the jackhammers at the start of the project was a problem, and also caused the water-supply issue.
“We had a couple of days without water,” Piccoli said.
Tom Mulligan, owner of Magpies Newstand Café, said it is unclear how much the construction has affected his business.
“It’s hard to know for sure,” he said. “March is a slow month.”
He said, “Obstructions always cause some slowdowns.”
Still, he’s had no complaints from customers, just questions about what’s going on.
“Everyone handles it pretty good,” he said
“If it was in the middle of summer, it would affect (businesses) a lot more,” Piccoli said, echoing Noel-Barela.
What works for the businesses on her side of Main is a last-minute change in plans so that construction started on the west side rather than the east side, she said.
“We’re the first ones to get done,” Piccoli said.
The Durango Business Improvement District sent a “letter” to help keep businesses informed of progress and new developments, she said.
Several business owners praised workers, who “are really courteous and considerate,” Piccoli said.
Coldwell Banker has some advantages compared with most neighboring businesses, Piccoli said.
She’s not as affected by construction because of the type of business, which relies less on walk-in traffic, plus her office is on the corner and has rear access.