Archive for Thursday, December 6, 2007

Business as usual returns to Main

December 6, 2007

The Main Street construction has been a hot topic in Lansing for the past 18 months, and Snip and Clip manager Vicki Parr has heard it all before.

Hair salons always have been a place of chatter, and Parr admits that one of her clients' biggest complaints was construction along Main Street.

Now that the cones have been cleared and all lanes of traffic have opened, Parr said she couldn't be happier that customers at her salon, at 846 N. Main St., would get back into a better flow of traffic as well as some new conversation topics.

This was the case for many businesses along Main Street that for the past 18 months had to endure hardships like blocked entrances and scared-away customers. But now that construction has officially been completed, it's been back to business as usual.

Ken Miller, Main Street project liaison, said he was sure businesses were relieved construction was over. He said while it may be too early to tell just how much of an affect it will have on sales numbers, just the wider and more open lanes should have everyone thrilled.

Ed Edwards, vice president of E. Edwards Work and Western Wear, 832 N. Main St., said business started going down hill once construction hit, but he said business already was picking back up. The winter and Christmas seasons always have been a big time of year for the store, so Edwards said he and his employees were working on luring back customers who found other places to shop during the project.

So far, Edwards said customers seem just as happy as the employees the end of construction finally arrived. At one point, Edwards joked, he wanted to go out and help workers pick up the orange cones himself just to move progress along faster.

Down the road further south at AAA Mini Warehouse, 602 N. Main St., customers are also showing signs of happiness. Mel Gaines, managing partner of the warehouse, said while it was too soon to tell just how much business has improved, he was certain all of the congestions problems have been alleviated.

Because of the nature of a warehouse business, Gaines said it was hard to determine the affect construction had on current customers. But since November, Gaines said there has been a 25 percent increase in business from people who stop in after driving by and seeing the warehouse's sign.

Without construction equipment, cones and workers filling the streets, he said, people could take more time to look around at the business along Main Street, which in turn has meant more new business for him.

Throughout the project, Miller said the city made several attempts to make sure work minimized the economic impact on businesses.

Before any crews touched the street, Miller said city officials decided there would be no detours during the project. They wanted to keep traffic on Main Street open so access was maintained to area businesses. To do this Lexeco Inc., the lead contractor on the project, worked in smaller sections so that no one area bore the brunt of work for too long.

Miller also organized a Main Street Treasure Hunt where Lansing residents could visit various businesses along Main Street for answers to trivia questions that could then be redeemed for prizes. Miller said it was a small effort, but he wanted to give an incentive to people to keep shopping in the area.

The biggest effort, however, had to do with the communication Miller said he maintained with both residents and businesses. He said staying ahead of the project to give fair warning to the people of Lansing was crucial in cutting down unpleasant surprises and, hopefully, making the work for such a large scale project as bearable as possible.

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