Hang on to your hardhat things are about to get bumpy around the downtown redevelopment project.
We’re huge fans of Acorn Alley — love what Mr. Burbick has done — and we’ve been delighted to have Mr. Burbick rushing down the redevelopment path in front of us, petal to the metal and damning the torpedoes, clearing the way for the rest of us to follow.
Thanks to Ron we’ve learned that leading the charge is great until you reach that point where the rest of the projects catch up to you — which is the point we are rapidly approaching, and construction is starting to feel very crowded.
When you’re out ahead of the pack you’ve got plenty of room to do your thing and Mr. Burbick did just that and he did it very well, building great office and retail space right up to the edge of the City streets and sidewalks which now need to be torn up and put back together in new and improved versions that create that vibrant downtown space that we’ve been planning to complement all the great new buildings.
Now that we’ve caught up, the challenge is how do we get in and tear out an old street and sidewalk in front of a brand new business that is off to a great start and relies on convenient parking and easy access to pay the bills.
We try to live by the motto “do no harm” in eveything we do and after spending literally millions of dollars to support an economic rejuvenation in downtown the last thing we want to do is create a setback for the early adopters that proudly raced to the front of the line and proved us right.
It’s a problem I’ve heard people say is a good problem to have — a problem of progress — and while that sounds great philosophically, I remember Socratese always said that philosphy bakes no bread; downtown merchants do and we’ve got to keep them open and running on all cylinders.
After sitting through a series of planning meetings this week I had the epiphany that we are about to enter probably the most difficult period for downtown access and despite our best efforts I’m worried that were not going to be able to please everyone.
Unfortunately it’s time to install new water lines, new streets and soon new sidewalks along Erie and Depeyster Streets and I’ve yet to find a way to change out streets and sidewalks without closing them, tearing them out and putting in new ones, so it looks like we’ve got a couple of months worth of closing portions of Depeyster and Erie Streets as they will be torn up and largely impassable.
The City staff recognizes the hardships this causes for the owners of the new businesses along Erie Street and we’ll do whatever we can to provide as much access as possible but I’m worried that there’s no way to tear up a street to put in a new one without disrupting the business activity that fronts on that street. Recognizing that, the key from our perspective is to get in and get out as quickly as possible which is our goal.
Fairmount is under pressure to have Davey and Ametek in their buildings by the end of July (and they are on track for that date), so the City has to have most of our work done by that same date. We’ve staged as much construction as we can up to this point but as the deadline looms ever closer there’s only so much more staging that can be done before everything needs to be tied in together and it’s starting to look like we may have multiple closures going on at once, probably from now until the end of July.
We’ll do our best to keep customers and businesses informed and we’re also busy trying to arrange extra parking around the impacted area but it’s pretty clear to me at this point, no matter what we come up with, the next 2 months are going to be hard on everyone.
We promise to do whatever we can for impacted properties but heading into this period I’m asking everyone to understand that no matter what we do, it is going to be a trying and frustrating time. We knew this was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
We’ve got some great new businesses downtown and we know how sensitive they are in their first year. Please tell your friends that we’re doing everything we can and we need them, as customers, to do everything they can to keep supporting our new businesses this summer no matter how hard it might be to get to them.
Grab your hard hat and come on down to support your new favorite Kent businesses.