A little relief on Washington

Published 8:24 pm Monday, March 24, 2014

Business owners on West Washington Street say a half-block the city opened for parking has done a little to help business but still hope the work is done sooner than anticipated.

The street has been closed since March 10, and city leaders initially said the work would be done in three to six weeks. The city said it is replacing and re-routing stormwater drains that are more than 100 years old.

It was the best time to do it, Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said the week the work began, because the street soon will be occupied with many more residents and businesses after the Monument Construction loft project brings 68 lofts and several business spaces to the 100 block of West Washington Street.

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But the work is yet another headache for the small businesses on the street that have endured several protracted road closures in the last few years, some related to the Monument project and some not.

After the most recent work began, the city opened the eastern half of the block for business parking. It has also put up signs and paid for newspaper advertisements saying the businesses are still open.

Jose Moncada, owner of the recently opened East Coast Taco Company, said Friday that the extra parking and the draw of Suffolk Restaurant Week had helped some.

Stephanie Mitchell of Stephanie’s Fashion Boutique also said the extra parking had helped but that some customers still complained.

Wine and cheese shop C3 Vino closed for a week in response to the construction.

City spokeswoman Diana Klink said Monday the goal for completion is still mid-April, despite weather delays and utility conflicts discovered after the work began. The city also is exploring options to open travel lanes on weekends or during phases of construction, she said.

Attorney Fred Taylor, whose office at Bush & Taylor, P.C., is on the block, said it’s pure speculation whether a business has legal recourse, even after a new constitutional amendment on eminent domain passed in 2012.

“Obviously, the work the city is doing is on public property,” Taylor said. “It becomes a question of whether the city’s use of the public property, shutting down a major thoroughfare, has an affect on a person’s use of their private property.”

The amendment, among other things, addresses compensation for lost profits and lost assets.

“We all hope here on this block we’ll have some nice weather and these guys can get finished,” Taylor said. “Hopefully, the means benefit the end.”

In an attempt to get folks to visit the block, the city announced a Facebook-based contest. Those who post photos at the businesses — whether selfies or groups of people or shots of activities and scenery — on the “Love Local, Buy Suffolk” Facebook page can receive a goodie bag if their photo gets the most likes through March 31. The winner will be announced on April 1.