Archive for Thursday, January 24, 2008

Businesses prepare for upgrades, construction

January 24, 2008

Although construction on Eudora's downtown revitalization plan won't start for about five month, business owners in the district already are considering how the work will affect their business.

The topic came up last Thursday at the monthly Eudora Chamber of Commerce meeting when City Administrator Cheryl Beatty reviewed the timeline for construction.

The bid package for the construction is set to go out in February and will come back in mid-April. Construction, which is set to take a maximum of 90 days, should begin in late spring or early summer.

"Any construction we know will impact a business," City Administrator Cheryl Beatty said. "What will be built into the contract is that the contractors will have to communicate with the businesses and try to make accommodations."

The city applied once to the state for revitalization and it was denied, Beatty said.

"I went back to the engineers at the state of Kansas and they wanted more public involvement and a better sense of public perception of project.

A series of public meetings were conducted in late 2005 through early 2006 and the city resubmitted grant. However, the state didn't a get response back to city in time for construction season so the project was pushed back to this year.

"We didn't hear back on the grant for a while from the state and there were some delays at the KDOT level," Beatty said. "Then, we got into the 150th anniversary and there was no way we were going to have construction at the same time as we were doing that, so we delayed it until this spring."

KDOT officials chose Eudora as one of 18 cities eligible for a transportation enhancement grant. The grant will cover 80 percent of the eventual improvements valued at $813,715.

The streets will be repaved, new sidewalks will be added and new lighting installed for the area spanning from Seventh to Ninth streets on Main Street.

"It will help to give the downtown area a fresh, new look, which you do to try to bring attention to your downtown so that in the long run, it will benefit those businesses," Beatty said. "My concern when I arrived in Eudora was that our downtown was not identifiable. There was nothing out of the ordinary, whereas all of the communities around us have done revitalization plans and you know when you've arrived in their downtown. Ours had become kind of ho-hum the storefronts were not looking fresh."

Beatty will be meeting with the businesses to talk about the impact of construction.

"As we get down to a final estimate of the schedule with KDOT, then we'll start meeting with the businesses and start encouraging them to create new and unusual ways to advertise their businesses," she said,

Beatty has experienced this process before, as she was the city manager of Kingman during the same type of construction in that city's downtown. Most of the Kingman businesses that were affected by the construction teamed up to put on special sales in order to continue to draw customers.

"In Kingman, we encouraged people to renovate their back doors by posting a sign and clearing their back rooms so that a pathway can go from their back doors to the front so that people can park on a side street and walk down the alley way to get to their business," she said.

Eudora Chamber of Commerce officials also hope to help figure out some strategies for downtown businesses during that time.

The construction will make Main Street into a one-way street and limit parking, potentially causing more people to use the city parking lot located at 7th and Main streets

Beatty said contractors don't want to impact the businesses and they understand that they need to get in and get out as quickly as possible. She will send out letters as soon as she knows a preliminary timeframe and she believes that business owners will understand.

While most business owners do see the revitalization as something that needs to be done, it doesn't mean that they aren't concerned.

Dan Strimple, owner of Cutter's Smokehouse and Pub, is one such individual.

"I think that it's a positive thing for the downtown area, but it's going to be detrimental to a lot of businesses down here," he said. "We're hoping and praying that it gets done in a timely manner because the longer it goes, the worse it gets for us."

Strimple said that Cutter's, which has been opened for about seven years, has a solid customer base. However, he'll still do what he can to make sure he retains those customers by offering free in-town deliveries.

Tina Lencioni, who recently formed a downtown business association and is co-owner of DC Custom Crafted Cycles, said she doesn't think the construction will affect her business as harshly as others. But she still wants to begin to plan for how the downtown businesses can remain profitable during the process.

"In the next meeting, I want to stress that we need to start thinking real hard about what we're going to do when the street's down," she said. "We need to starting think real hard, because it's going to be a strain."

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