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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Construction done on Fourth Avenue north of Sixth Street

Robert Alcaraz/Arizona Summer Wildcat With construction completed on parts of Fourth Avenue, business owners along the street expect to see patronage pick up once again. According to proprietors, the construction was completed faster than expected, saying the city had predicted it to finish by mid-August.

The fence on Fourth Avenue between Sixth Street and University Boulevard came down Monday, allowing vehicles to pass through after three months of construction for the Tucson Modern Streetcar. Businesses suffered throughout the work, some down by 75 percent, but proprietors said they are looking forward to the traffic the streetcar will bring once it’s completed.

“The day they pulled the fence, our business went back up,” said Jeremiah Johnson, manager at Magpies at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Fifth Street.

Johnson said Magpies’ business was cut by at least three quarters during construction. Business usually slows down on Fourth Avenue during the summer, but he did not expect it to that bad, he added.

Joy Soler, co-owner of Revolutionary Grounds Books and Coffee said her business went down by 70 percent causing her to go into debt and making it difficult to pay bills. Soler stayed open as usual and maintained her staff’s hours through construction.

“It’s hard on me but it’s harder on them,” Soler said. “My husband has another job which has been paying the bills since this whole thing started. So I’m fortunate to have that.”

Employees were still affected as fewer tips were coming in, Soler said. Though the fence that was once in front of the coffee shop is no longer there, Soler still hasn’t seen a significant difference in customers.

“It’s just a thing that happens in a retail area, when people get used to not going it takes a while to bring them back,” Soler said. Soler said loyal customers and community support kept her in business. Groups scheduled their meetings at the coffee shop.
“It would’ve been worse without that, without the support of the community,” Soler said.

Creative Ventures, a gift shop just north of Sixth Street on Fourth Avenue, saw their business decrease by 40 percent. Craig Wilson, the store’s owner, said he thought the fence would be up longer. Now that construction north of Sixth Street is done, Wilson is excited to see how the streetcar will revitalize Tucson, he said.

“I just think this is really going to revitalize, more than any other thing that’s been done, this whole area, and I think that once the population starts seeing all this that Tucson will get excited about it too,” Wilson said.

Jericho Davidson, manager of Mr. Heads Art Gallery and Bar, agrees with Wilson, calling streetcar construction a “necessary evil” for Tucson.

“Tucson’s growing, you know,” he said. “The city’s got to grow with the amount of people that are here. So it was bound to happen eventually.”

The nightlife on Fourth Avenue kept Mr. Heads in business according to Davidson. Business was down about 30 percent, he said.

“I expected more (business loss),” Davidson said. “We didn’t have to fire anybody.”

Business owners and managers expect the District on Fifth, a private student-housing complex opening in August, to bring in more business on Fourth Avenue. Wilson, whose gift shop is parallel to the housing complex, said he is excited to have more traffic down Fourth Avenue and in his business. Johnson said he expects to see a lot of students from the District on Fifth in Magpies as well.

“I can’t wait (for the District on Fifth to open),” Johnson said. “I think that will generate a lot of business down here.”

Davidson recalled being told that construction would be done by mid-August.

“They finished ahead of schedule,” Davidson said. “And they’re saying now the whole project is going to be done ahead of schedule.”

Despite construction on Fourth Avenue being nearly complete, there will still be lane and parking restrictions north of Sixth Street. Fourth Avenue will be closed between Ninth Street and Sixth street to all vehicular and bicycle traffic. Businesses will remain open during construction, which is expected to last about four months.

With only one month left of summer, business is expected to increase again in August according to Johnson. In order to bring customers back to the area, Soler and her neighboring business, Elements in Balance Salon and Spa, will be celebrating with a live band and will feature drink and massage specials this Friday.

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