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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

With 4th closed to traffic, patrons dwindle

With+4th+closed+to+traffic%2C+patrons+dwindle

While business owners on Fourth Avenue are seeing a decrease in clientele due to streetcar construction, proprietors remain confident the project will help businesses prosper in the future.

“It would be naive to think we won’t lose business during this time, but I think a lot of people are still finding their way,” said Trudy Mills, co-owner of Antigone Books, a bookstore on Fourth Avenue.

Fourth Avenue closed to traffic from Sixth Street to University Boulevard on April 9 and will remain closed throughout the summer. Sidewalks and businesses, however, will remain open during the construction period. Finding parking is the public’s main concern during this time, business owners say.

“I don’t think people should be afraid to come down here and park. There are designated parking areas,” said Martin Fontes, owner of Martin’s Comida Chingona. “The only thing I have a gripe upon is people riding their bikes on the sidewalk because there’s only 5 feet of sidewalk and people are trying to get by.”

A walkway through Fifth Street was created for people to walk across Fourth Avenue more conveniently. FourthAvenue.org highlighted maps on its site to show customers where they can park or walk their bikes and bike corrals were installed throughout locations on the avenue.

“Since it’s getting hotter, people don’t want to be walking around, struggling to get from one side to the other,” said Alexsis Corral, owner of Lollipop Culture Shop.

Businesses on Fourth Avenue are also trying to attract customers by working together and staying open later, Fontes said, to attract the nightlife crowd. Some business owners are even offering discounts as incentives during construction.

“When it’s slow, you have to work harder,” Fontes said. “You have to work longer hours, because whatever comes in has to pay the bills.”

Shops that are not yet in the construction zone are also being affected due to confusion. Some people avoid Fourth Avenue entirely once they hear about the construction and street closure, Mills added.

“Instead of thinking, ‘Oh it’s a pain to get there,’ think about how you need to support your local businesses so make that effort during this period,” she added.

Businesses south of Sixth Street that are not currently dealing with road closures are also helping shops near the construction zone by letting customers know that all the businesses are remaining open during construction. Antigone Books has posted parking tips on its Facebook page and Epic Cafe has put up signs asking customers to continue to support these businesses.

“Most of us have decided that we would help that side, and they’ll do it (stay open late) for us because eventually this construction is going to go over there,” said Zulema Toledo, owner of ZT Boutique.

Regular customers still make appointments, shop and eat at their favorite places.

“I’ve had my faithful customers come back to me,” Toledo said.

Business owners said they understand that their shops will flourish once the streetcar is up and running. The car will bring customers from downtown, the UA and surrounding areas.

“I think once they’re finished with the construction, we’re going to have a really nice late summer because people all over the city are going to want to see what’s happened and what’s going on with the progress of the facelift, the streetcar,” Fontes said.

Heath Vescovi, a graduate student studying public administration, said although he understands the streetcar could eventually benefit the city, it’s “kind of a waste of money.”

“It could be kind of cool and it might draw new people here, but for the people that are already solidified in how Fourth Avenue is and how Congress is, it’s not necessary,” he said.

Christopher Campos, a senior studying family studies and human development, said the convenience and speed of the streetcar, once complete, will draw in a new and diverse crowd of visitors.

“It’s going to change the dynamics of Fourth Avenue,” he said.

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