Main Street construction continues to harm local businesses

Construction
​Olivia Feldman/THE REVIEW
Local businesses along Main Street in the heart of Newark are bearing the brunt of the ongoing construction project that began last April.

BY
Contributing Reporter

Local businesses along Main Street in the heart of Newark are bearing the brunt of the ongoing construction project that began last April.

The addition of sidewalk closures, lane reductions and daily labor is forcing businesses on Main Street to determine how to conduct business without losing sales. Heart and Home, a small boutique specializing in apparel, gifts, home decor and more is finding it more difficult to earn what they had prior to the construction.

“I have seen a drop in sales since the beginning of September,” Eileen Philips, the owner of Heart and Home, said.

Philips is frustrated with the timeline of the construction project and how it is affecting store hours and regular business. Rather than staying confined to the spot being worked on, construction debris and barriers are splayed throughout the entirety of the street.

“To me, it’s not in increments, it’s everywhere,” Phillips said. “Having the barriers is not helping either.”

Although sales do fluctuate at Heart and Home depending on the time of year due to it being situated in a college town, with the bulk of their business coming during the school semesters, there was a noticeable decline in purchases since the start of the construction project. Philips owns two additional stores, reducing the stress of generating sales.

“Luckily we have two other stores that can carry us, so hopefully we can make it through,” Philips said.

The store faced cutting down on employee hours to make up for the lost revenue.

“We have had to cut hours down significantly,” Philips said. “It just isn’t worth it to stay open when [the road work] is right in front of the store.”

The biggest setback occurred right before this past Christmas, a time when their revenue is typically at its peak. In addition to weather-ridden sidewalks, the core of the construction project wound up outside of Heart and Home when busy holiday shoppers were looking for gifts, making it less appealing to make their way inside.

“When you have barriers up with the sidewalks closed the week before Christmas, it’s a little rough,” Philips explained.

Claire O’Shea, a senior, is no more pleased with the ongoing Main Street restoration project than any store owner.

“The construction definitely makes me want to avoid Main Street,” O’Shea said. “It makes casual walks down the street much less enjoyable because of having to constantly cross due to the barriers.”

An initiative to give Main Street a restorative makeover, the ongoing construction project is bringing about a greater disservice on local small businesses than assistance, students and business owners say.

There is less of a desire to stroll down the street because of the constant blockades, and with a decline in foot traffic, shop owners have no choice but to hope that sales pick back up once the street is restored.

“There’s nothing we can really do about it,” Philips said. “We are just a little more flexible with our hours now, but we can’t stay open if no one is coming.”

Construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2020, leaving businesses lining Main Street to suffer for at least five more months.

However, as reported by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), construction is progressing on schedule as expected.

“Construction is underway and is progressing well,” DelDOT stated on its website. “All phases of the project are complete except for Phase six which involves work between S. Chapel St. and S. College Avenue.”

Local businesses are aware of the fact that in the remaining months, their business efforts will continue to be strained as a result of the construction project.

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