Downtown Chandler business owners say construction in and near the intersection of Arizona Avenue and Chicago Street is steering away customers and denting sales.
Traffic has been limited to one lane in each direction on areas of Arizona Avenue since May 13 while improvements are made in preparation for the opening of the New Square development across from Chandler City Hall.
New Square is a mixed-use development that will offer retail, office and restaurant spaces, as well as a Hilton Garden Inn.
A traffic signal will also be needed to accommodate additional traffic expected as drivers head to a parking garage with about 930 parking spaces at the corner of Chicago and Oregon streets.
Crews are beginning the second phase of Arizona Avenue obstructions as they close the west side of the street between Frye Road and Boston Street, with drivers able to use one lane in each direction on its east side. That work is expected to be finished in August.
The construction work has left people with fewer parking spots near businesses and more congestion and delays, some business owners say.
Brandon Fisher, owner of Crisp Greens at 250 S. Arizona Ave., said his three-year-old restaurant is feeling the crunch of the construction.
“Many of my customers have told me that it’s hard to get in and out and it’s hard to access because it’s down to one lane,” Fisher said.
“It’s stressful because trying to get through with one lane — it’s a wait,” he added. “Construction is right outside our store. They keep the entrance open and we’re very thankful. It is a hindrance.”
He said the construction workers and everyone involved in the project have all made an effort to make businesses accessible but that the “general situation” remains difficult.
People that know about Crisp Greens are likely to still go there, but those not familiar with it might not walk by and discover it as often with the construction going on, Fisher said.
“While we do get a lot of walk-by traffic and people that would pop by, that part’s dwindled a little bit but we’ve got a lot of great customers that we are just so thankful for because they’re willing to put up with some of these difficulties to come see us and try our great food,” he said.
Fisher said the New Square development and the new parking garage once they are in will benefit his business and other local companies.
“In the long run it’s gonna help us,” he said. “In the long run we’re gonna have new customers, a larger customer base. There’s gonna be a hotel, a lot of things going on down here. It’s just getting through the temporary obstacle.”
The Local, at 55 W. Chicago St., is also feeling the impact of construction.
“Obviously with a limited (number) of lanes it’s definitely affected our business for sure,” owner Mike Smith said.
“I do see the bigger picture and am very excited about New Square and the parking garage,” he added. “Being a small business, we don’t have multiple locations to rely on. We don’t have the support of leaning on another restaurant or store to support us.”
Smith said The Local temporarily lost its regular parking lot due to construction so he leased a 20-space parking lot next to his restaurant. A dirt lot the public could use for free parking is gone as New Square is being constructed there.
Smith said he believes The Local has seen at least a 10 percent decrease in its overall business since the construction project began.
“What’s nice is we have support of our local customer base,” Smith said. “We really appreciated their support. It’s harder to create new customers.”
John Wolfe, who co-owns Sibley’s West: The Chandler and Arizona Gift Shop with his wife, Michelle Wolfe, sympathizes with fellow downtown merchants. Sibley’s is at 72 S. San Marcos Place.
“It’s definitely affecting businesses in downtown because the parking used to be so close by but fortunately a lot of the businesses have been around for several years so they’ve attracted steady clientele who will find a way to get to the business,” John said.
He added, “I also think that the opening of the parking garage next to Flix (Brewhouse) has been a big help, the Overstreet garage. People are recognizing it’s there and using it. The other nice thing has been the Wave shuttle service. That’s been a really nice addition Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday nights.”
The Wave is a free shuttle service from four parking garages in downtown Chandler to destinations around the downtown area.
John said the construction on Arizona Avenue at Chicago Street came up suddenly.
“The Arizona Avenue at Chicago Street kind of sprung up on us quickly and I was a bit disappointed that it started in May,” he said. “I think if they had waited till June or July it would have been better.”
John said he has put information on the Sibley’s Facebook page and in an e-newsletter he sends reminding people to keep visiting businesses downtown that are affected by the construction including The Local, ImprovMANIA Comedy Club, Crisp Greens and Pirate’s Fish & Chips.
“The lane reduction has been kind of a distraction but it has not gotten to the stage of massive backups,” John said. “People who are aware of it are using Alma School (Road.) There’s not a long wait when you’re at Frye Road. We’re fortunate because we’re a destination.”
David Specht, who co-owns ImprovMANIA Comedy Club with his wife, Colleen Specht, at 250 S. Arizona Ave., is keeping a sense of humor about the construction work.
He said people used to park right on the street in front of his business but now they have to find other places as construction work is going on right there.
“The good news is a lot of what we do is online reservations,” David said. “It’s not been too bad. The downside are the walk-ins, the people who would walk to see us can’t get through. It just looks like our site is under construction. I’m sure people think we’re under construction or that we’re closed down for a little bit.”
He created and shared a video on Facebook showing the construction going on, making light of the fence near where crews are working on the road near ImprovMANIA. David also posted photos showing the work on Facebook and videos on Instagram.
He is encouraging people while the construction is going on to park at the free parking garage near Chandler City Hall, which is across Arizona Avenue from ImprovMANIA.
Kim Moyers, cultural development director for the City of Chandler, said the city understands the concerns businesses have about construction affecting their traffic and the city’s trying to minimize the disruptions.
“We’ve really tried to work with the downtown business community on the timing of our projects,” Moyers said. “The heat of the summer is when the businesses are at their slowest. We’ve tried to time these projects during their slow time. We know it impacts them but were trying to impact them as minimally as we can.”
Downtown Chandler has four parking garages open, providing a total of more than 1,800 parking spaces in garages, not including on-street parking spots, she said.
“We’ve been talking about this project for almost a year,” Moyers said. “As we started defining the timelines we met with the businesses. We understand that no matter what, it’s an inconvenience. We want all of the businesses to succeed down here. We need to continue to redevelop, which will bring in more people for them to continue to prosper.
“We’ve put a tremendous amount of signage up letting people know they’re still open for business. We have pedestrian signs and vehicular signs to help with flow. We’ve worked really hard to not block any access. We’ve done a lot of social media; taking pictures; letting people know these businesses are still open for business,” she added.