Downtown businesses deal with construction, recession, weather | SteamboatToday.com
Mike Lawrence

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Downtown businesses deal with construction, recession, weather

Contact CDOT

  • For information about the reconstruction work on U.S. Highway 40 from 13th Street to Third Street, by the Colorado Department of Transportation through Scott Contracting, call project information manager Jody Patten at 819-7008, e-mail jody@pattencom.com or visit http://www.coloradodot.i…

  • Check for updates on Twitter at “US40SB.”

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from its original version. Jody Patten is the U.S. Highway 40 project information manager for Scott Contracting.

On Thursday afternoon, orange barrels and construction fencing lined the north curb along Lincoln Avenue at 11th Street, which was closed to through traffic and blocked by a ditch for new sewer pipes. There was no street parking, and crews diverted traffic around machinery digging the ditch. Industrial noise filled the air.

Kenny Loose looked out the window of Pioneer Spirits and grinned ruefully.

“The last two days have been pretty slow – in the daytime,” said Loose, a partial owner of the liquor and wine store that faces Lincoln Avenue and, these days, construction. “But it hasn’t been as bad as I thought.”

Loose said business has held steady at night for Pioneer Spirits, and he expects daytime traffic to get a boost when construction moves down the street and curbside parking returns at the store. He’s one of many business owners and employees dealing with construction along Lincoln Avenue where the Colorado Department of Transportation and Scott Contracting are in the thick of a major resurfacing and improvement project that’s moving in stages between 13th Street and Third Street.

When added to an economic recession, shoulder season in a resort community and moody fall weather, the construction could seem to be the final straw for downtown businesses.

But at least so far, it hasn’t been. Several owners said Thursday that they’re getting by, despite hurdles including less foot traffic and temporary sidewalk closures.

“It’s not pretty, but yeah, we can stay afloat,” said Matt Cardille, owner of Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory at 845 Lincoln Ave. Taking a break from making chocolate and coconut “haystacks” Thursday, Cardille acknowledged that the construction is hurting customer traffic.

“Oh, absolutely. Oh, yeah. You could ask anybody on this block and they’ll tell you that,” he said. “Nobody wants to come downtown.”

The city’s most recent sales tax report, for collections in August, said downtown figures decreased 20 percent compared with August of 2008, from $336,798 in that month to $269,349 in August this year. That number was close to overall figures, which showed citywide sales tax collections dipping 20.4 percent in August compared with a year ago.

Down the block from Fuzziwig’s, Epilogue Book Co. owner Erica Fogue said more advance notice of construction schedules and plans would have been helpful.

“People didn’t know who to contact – it’s CDOT who’s doing this, but the city is who people went to,” she said. “We could have planned better, had we known much further ahead of time.”

Fogue said that shortly after the construction project began, sidewalk closure signs kept pedestrians from walking down Lincoln on her store’s block. She credited CDOT staff with responding quickly to her phone call and removing the signs.

“I think that was the main thing, that the sidewalk was closed,” she said. “But we got it all figured out.”

Business owners can call U.S. Highway 40 project information manager Jody Patten at 819-7008, e-mail jody@pattencom.com or visit CDOT’s project information Web site at http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/us40Steamboat. Updates also are available on Twitter at “US40SB.”

Patten could not be reached Friday.

Trade-offs

At 10th and Lincoln, Bob Logan, of Bob’s Downtown Conoco, said construction crews have been polite and helpful and have allowed access to his gas station, auto shop and convenience store throughout lane blockages.

“The construction people have been very, very good,” Logan said.

Kurt Vordermeier, general manager of the Old Town Pub & Restaurant at Sixth and Lincoln, said he has not yet seen a negative impact from construction, which so far has not occurred heavily in front of the pub.

“Our lunches the past couple weeks have been busier than they have all summer,” he said.

Hunting season could be contributing to that upswing.

On Thursday afternoon, Ohio resident Walter Danals strolled down Lincoln Avenue with three companions. The group drove to Steamboat Springs from Ohio and had just finished four days of hunting in West Routt County’s California Park. Each member of the group bagged an elk, Danals said, and construction-related traffic had little impact on their visit.

“It’s harder to park, because we’re towing a trailer,” he said with a shrug. “But it wasn’t terrible.”

At Pioneer Spirits, Loose said he’s seen some benefits from construction workers coming in to buy cigarettes and that he expects a new streetlight to boost foot traffic.

“There’s always a bit of a trade-off,” Loose said. He added that from what he’s seen, the sewer pipes going into the ground are much nicer than the old ones coming out.

“It needs to be done,” Fuzziwig’s Cardille said about the construction and improvements. “And this is probably the best time of year to do it.”

Tracy Barnett, of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, seconded that thought.

“What I’m hearing is ‘thank God it’s happening now, when things are slow anyway,'” she said. “It’d be awful if this was happening in July.”