Several shops and restaurants along Hickory Street in downtown Denton are reporting major losses since the start of a project to beautify the area.
Employees at Weinberger's Deli will tell you the lunch rush line often stretches to the front door or out of it on most work days. The restaurant is in a prime spot for downtown workers, sitting right along the 200 block of East Hickory Street.
However lately, the spot isn't looking so prime.
"What you're looking at is a prime example of what business has been like for about the last month, month and a half," said general manager Dallas Guill sitting in the empty dining room at 12:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon.
The main reason is clear for Guill when you look right outside the front door: construction.
Since late last year, work has been underway on a three-block stretch to repair Hickory Street and beautify it with the Hickory Street Grand Project.
The work will fix-up the stretch to make it a more walkable streetscape to take folks from the A-Train station to the popular downtown Square. That will include expanded sidewalk space and features, new utilities and the city’s first ever back-in only parking zone to offer drivers more spots in the popular restaurant district.
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So store owners and managers have known the project was on the way, but many are now starting to see just how tough the construction will be for business leading up to that nice, new streetscape.
"Yeah, it's been a challenge," said Christye Price, buyer at Noles General Store.
Price and her business partners have seen a major decline in business as the stretch in front of the store was torn up in recent weeks. The biggest loss has been the parking spaces along the street that often lead to window shoppers stopping in for a peek.
"Yes, a lot. Probably maybe, you know, less than half of what we usually do," she said. "Where I used to get walk-by people, now it's like they're specifically coming here to get something."
Project manager Greg Blackstone said they’re currently in the third and fourth phases of the project, which will include major construction to the road itself and the sidewalks in front of many of those Hickory Street stores.
Schematics on the city of Denton's website show the work that will most heavily affect stores will be split into several sections between now and the end of February so as to keep a lane of traffic moving each way for most of the rest of the project.
Until the end of the year, that will mostly effect the businesses on the north side of the street. The south side will see the bulk of their work starting in January.
Blackstone said that will include sidewalk work directly in-front of businesses, but he said they are working with owners to accommodate them and keep doors open throughout. He said that must happen.
Some businesses like the North Texas Vapor Shop are directing customers through back doors until the project is complete.
Several business leaders tell us they're pleased the city is working with them well during this phase and they are trying to keep focused on how much the area will gain in the end.
"I'm sure there's going to be a lot of traffic coming through, wanting to check out the new stuff, but it's just a matter of trying to make it through the construction," said Guill.
Blackstone said the project is still shooting for a completion date somewhere in February or March 2015, however, they have had to deal with unforeseen issues due to utility work and weather. Plus, he said, working to accommodate business owners is a must, but each time they do it adds a little extra time to the project.
Blackstone said they will continue to meet with the business owners to update them and will continue to update the public on the project via the city of Denton website.