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Chapel Street merchants fear Needham public works project

Posted by Tom Coakley  October 7, 2009 11:12 AM

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Despite plans by the town to minimize disruption, merchants on Chapel Street in needham are concerned about a water main and sidewalk project scheduled to start on the street next week.

Even though the construction is supposed to be completed by Dec. 11, business owners believe it will disrupt some of their holiday sales and fear that bad weather may extend the project through the holiday season, their busiest sales period.

“The office of the town manager has made statements that the town is working with the merchants to keep them operating,’’ Monica Berman, owner of the Grey Goose Boutique on Chapel Street, said in a statement. “In reality nothing is or can be done to provide the
Needham merchants a welcome environment if this construction is attempted during the holiday buying season.’’

The project will include replacing the water main under Chapel Street from the pedestrian alleyway to Highland Avenue and putting in new sidewalks on both sides of Chapel Street from Great Plain Avenue to Lewandos.

Town officials say the project cannot be rescheduled to the Spring because the tightly scheduled renovation project on the nearby Town Hall must start March 1. The Chapel Street area is too tight a space to allow both projects to proceed smoothly at once and if the Town
Hall work is delayed it will cost the city money and could outstrip the budget for that work.

Merchants expressed their fears at a hearing Sept. 30 and Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick has sent a letter to business owners explaining the project and outlining some of the measures that would be taken to lessen the impact.

She said that work will not start until after 7 p.m. in most of the project area and 10 p.m. in the vicinity of the Not Your Average Joe’s restaurant. The street and sidewalks will be open during the day. Most parking spots will be maintained on Chapel Street and additional spots for shoppers will be available near Town Hall. Signs will tell people whether the sidewalks are open and will provide directions to parking areas.

Police details will be increased to help with traffic in the area and parking enforcement will take into account the special circumstances created by the construction.

Fitzpatrick also said she will also make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen to make parking in the area free during construction.

“We’re going to be doing everything we can to make sure that daytime retail operations are not affected,” she said.

Despite these efforts, Nancy Wright, owner of Perennial Designs on Chapel Street, says she thinks she will still lose customers during construction.

“We rely on this part of the year for a large percentage of our revenue,” Wright said. “Anything that disrupts that flow of revenue will have a really large impact on any business in the downtown area.”

Wright said that the project is coming at a bad time as the economy puts a strain on small businesses.

“We don’t want to stop this from happening,” she said, “we want them to delay the project until after the holiday season so we can recover some of the revenue that many of us may have lost during the slow economic period.”

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1 comments so far...
  1. The Town Officials claim that starting the Town Hall project beyond March 1st would outstrip the budget seems to be without merit. No request for bids are out and no contract has been awarded for that project. Without a contract the Town Managers claim that penalties and cost overruns will occur is baseless.
    The town Officials have put forth a schedule for this November/December street and sidewalk project that asks for bids to be received October 8th, contracts signed October 16th, and construction started October 19th to 26th. That is 4 to 9 working days for construction to begin. A time frame that is risky to unrealistic. If that slips at all, there are certain to be delays and cost overruns. All that doesn't even speak to the effect that a cold spell or winter storm would have on the structural integrity of road and sidewalk construction. These projects should be done in the spring.

    Posted by Tom Byrne October 7, 09 04:25 PM