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Construction irks Grover Beach business owners

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A project that was supposed to revitalize the struggling economy in Grover Beach is actually having the opposite effect, according to local business owners. And they’re blaming construction crews for undercutting local companies during the busy summer months.

Crews were supposed to break ground on the $1.5-million West Grand Avenue Enhancement Project in December 2009, but extended wet winter pushed the start of construction into March. Though crews are nearing completion of the project, much of the work occurred during the busy summer months and the project likely won’t be finished until the end of the prime tourism season.

“People avoid us like the plague out here,” said Leticia Soria, owner of Monarca. “[Business owners] have all lost sales—I mean extensive sales.”

According to Soria, the slow business is making it hard for her and other owners to make their monthly lease payments or, in the case of one owner, afford an anniversary party.

Tom Rehder, a manager at Mongo’s Saloon & Restaurant, said he’s had fewer walk-in customers since construction began. He said most people don’t want to deal with the construction “and [are] just passing through the area because it’s confusing.” He couldn’t quantify how much business Mongo’s has lost because of other factors, such as the down economy, but said, “It hasn’t helped—let’s put it that way.”

However, Rehder didn’t fault the city for any lost business, saying that the end result of the project should be a benefit for businesses.

Much of the problem stemmed from the project’s funding, which came largely from federal stimulus money. That money, however, had to be put toward “shovel ready” projects. In other words, Grover Beach needed to begin construction by mid-summer to collect the funds.

“We can’t afford to jeopardize any funds coming our way,” City Councilwoman Debbie Peterson said.

The project should be completed in a few weeks, according to Director of Public Works/City Engineer Greg Ray. And when it’s finished, many agree the end result should help boost the local economy.

“Portions of the street were in fairly poor condition, but more importantly this is part of the city’s visioning process,” Ray said. “There’s a community vision to create a destination and a resort-atmosphere on West Grand Avenue.”

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