Resumption of Downtown Uplift work has merchants jittery, jolly

Construction work on the Shopping Park along Main Street is scheduled to begin Monday as part of the Downtown Uplift project from Fourth to Seventh streets.

Main Street merchants vary in their feelings about Monday’s start of the second phase of the Downtown Uplift project.

Some see the construction as something to be endured. Others see it as a necessary means to a much-anticipated end. A few worry it will be a sales killer.

Mark Smith, co-owner of Main Street Bagels at 559 Main St., said he’s more excited than worried about the effects of construction. A construction trailer will block parking spaces east of the bagel shop and construction will temporarily tear up spaces in front of the shop, but Smith is confident his loyal customer base will take any inconveniences in stride.

“I’m thinking it’s going to be fun to sit in our customer area and watch what’s going on from a cozy environment,” Smith said.

Main Street Bagels will offer $20 gift cards for free with each $100 gift card purchase and will double-punch frequent-buyer cards to entice customers to go downtown. Smith said some restaurants and retailers on Main Street, including his store, also plan to participate in a raffle program this winter and spring in which people who purchase items downtown can enter to win 10 $10 gift cards from participating downtown businesses.

Brown’s Shoe Fit owner and Grand Junction City Councilman Gregg Palmer said he’s seen plenty of projects come and go on Main Street in his 30 years heading the shoe store at 425 Main St. He tells other, less-seasoned businesses that construction will not do nearly the damage some may imagine.

“The end result is well worth it and on the slow January/February days we have entertainment outside,” he said.

Palmer said he expects the renovation of the 400, 500 and 600 blocks of Main Street in January through May to have some advantages over the renovation of the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Main during the first five months of 2010 in phase one of the Downtown Uplift.

Many businesses affected by the second phase have better back-door access and more parking behind their stores, Palmer said. Also, just the 400 block will be closed beginning Monday. It will take another month for construction to reach the 500 block of Main Street, giving shoppers a chance to adjust to construction in phases.

“We’re so much more fortunate than the 100, 200 and 300 blocks,” Palmer said.

Still, not every retailer is convinced construction will be obstacle-free for merchants. Becky Brehmer, owner of Razzmatazz at 552 Main St., said she’ll offer special discounts and sales to attract customers, but a still-struggling economy and concerns 300 block businesses raised during the previous phase of construction about confused customers avoiding their stores haven’t been lost on her.

“I’m excited to get it over with, that’s about my excitement level. It’s been out there on the screen for the last three years. We just have to encourage people to come downtown,” Brehmer said.

Few merchants have chosen to give up on downtown during construction. Only one, Mesa Theater & Club, has announced it will close until the project is done.

Regardless of their thoughts on construction, merchants agree they look forward to the project’s outcome. Shelly Ramos, manager of Benge’s shoe store at 514 Main St., said she looks forward to wireless internet installation and revamped sewer and electrical service.

“It definitely needs to be done,” she said.


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