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Businesses cope with Streetscape improvements

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Driving down Main Street in Jonesboro lately has been anything but a pretty sight.

Since May, construction related to the city's downtown Streetscape project has uprooted sidewalks, replaced once walkable-areas with beds of gravel, and has temporarily blocked access to parking and several Main Street businesses.

According to engineers, however, good weather has kept the project ahead of schedule and the first phase of Streetscape is expected to be complete within the next 50 to 90 days.

"It's been about two months [and] we're almost halfway done," said Ramesh Suhagia, president of Lilburn-based Construction Management & Engineering Services, which is overseeing the construction. "We are on schedule to get the project completed on time. All the shop owners there are happy with that they see. They are cooperating ... and we are making sure that they have access. We are doing 30-feet [of construction] at a time, so all of the businesses aren't covered up."

Businesses along Main Street have felt the impact since the start of construction, according to several business operators.

Arts Clayton Gallery Assistant Courtney Fort said some potential visitors have been deterred by the construction, but believes the end product will be beneficial for the area.

"It's been a little bit slower," Fort said. "People probably see it and think we're closed." "[However], once completed, I think it will draw a lot more visitors. I know it was really beneficial when they re-did McDonough's town square. It really revitalized the area. It will look nicer [and] it will also probably bring out people who never thought to come out here previously."

Other businesses, such as Simple Pleasures Gifts and Collectibles on Main Street, depend almost solely on walk-in traffic. Jo Lynne McEwen, the store's owner, said the lack of parking and access to her shop has definitely taken a toll.

"The guys working on it [Streetscape] are really nice, but other than that ... I'm just trying to have happy thoughts and live through it," McEwen said. "It's difficult for businesses in this slow economy, anyway. This whole side of the street has been closed off for weeks, [and] it's pretty difficult to walk across the street.

"It [Streetscape] will make it look nice," she added. "In terms of being beneficial for businesses ... hopefully, it will be, but that's yet to be seen."

Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox said that the progress of Streetscape can already be seen along Main Street heading south from Smith Street. He said the improvement is a preview of what is to come.

"If you look south from the corner of Smith Street, brick sidewalks have been put in," Maddox said. "It will give you a chance to see what the rest of it will look like. It's a vast improvement. It's going to be well worth the sacrifice everyone is making."

Maddox said that following the burial of utilities and grading and paving of new sidewalks in Streetscape's first phase, the city will resurface the streets between Spring and College streets and add brick crosswalks.

In August, Maddox said, the city will apply to the Georgia Department of Transportation for additional funding to start the second phase of the Streetscape project, which will include improvements along Main and North McDonough streets, outside of the central downtown area.