North Monroe Street construction plans worry local businesses

KREM 2's Lindsay Nadrich talks to local businesses to see their reactions to having so much construction on their street.

SPOKANE, Wash --- Several businesses on North Monroe Street are worried about how the recent construction will impact them. 

The planned construction project on Monroe Street from West Indiana Avenue to Kiernan Avenue has prompted a lot of debate.

City of Spokane officials said the project will improve infrastructure, including better street parking and wider sidewalks.

The project will also leave that section of Monroe Street with only three lanes of traffic. This is down from the five lanes of traffic that section had before.

The recent construction along East Sprague Avenue has left business owners with mixed opinions. 

John Carlson has owned the Zip’s on East Sprague since the 1990s. He said he is happy with how construction improved the street and the neighborhood. Carlson also said the construction was tough on business while it was in progress.

“The impact was pretty dramatic. It was about $100,000 in lost sales for this business here,” said Carlson.

Carlson said that broke down to a loss of about $1,000 a day because of the street closure. The loss in sales is why some businesses on Monroe Street are worried about the planned construction project there.

The Monroe Street Business Association sent a letter to Spokane officials opposing the project.

The letter is signed by 24 businesses who believe the project is the “most ill-advised public construction endeavor.”

Janet Richart, owner of Vintage Rabbit Antiques, has started packing up her store on Monroe after being in business for 23 years.

Richart said she is closing her store ahead of the project because she does not think her business could make it through the construction.

“I felt that the street construction would, if not put me out of business, I would lose at least half of my overall gross sales during the construction period,” said Richart.

Richart said she relies on people driving by who stop on a spur of the moment. If the road is closed for construction, she said she would lose most of her sales.

“Maybe some of the young people would come, but my clientele tends to be above 30, and older folks just aren’t going to go out of their way or whatever to come. Besides that, I see a product that nobody needs. It’s spur of the moment or 'I just want it,' as where a grocery store, they come because they have to have food,” said Richart.

Richart was even ready to sell her business to someone else to keep it going. When the potential owners heard about the planned construction and how it would impact business, they backed out of the deal.

It is stories like this that prompted City Councilman Mike Fagan to come up with a resolution for the project.

“The statements and complaints that I get almost on a daily basis, they are right up there in the top three with potholes and property crimes. How dumb an idea it is to choke Monroe Street down to the three lanes, when back in the 70s Monroe was that configuration and city leaders at that point decided for multiple reasons that they needed to expand the road to its current configuration?” said Fagan.

Fagan said the resolution is a compromise to help find common ground between those who are for and against the project. Many businesses he spoke to agreed with the safety enhancements, but want to keep five lanes of traffic.

“I definitely need to stress I’m not trying to kill the project. What I am trying to do is to offer an option that is, I believe, palatable to those that have been opposition of this particular program in the past,” said Fagan.

Spokane County Sheriff, Ozzie Knezovich, also wrote a letter against the construction, talking about public safety.

In part, it reads, “I want to make very clear that I am not in favor of this project. North Monroe plays a key role in the public safety planning for the entire Spokane County region.”

The Spokane Fire Department said the lane reduction will not affect response times for them. Instead, they said the street improvements would enhance people’s lives with a higher level of safety and better access to shops.

Fagan said his resolution keeps planned improvements for pedestrian safety, without reducing the number of lanes.

“They are all for safety improvements, enhanced lighting, pedestrian islands for the crosswalks. Some of the enhanced crosswalk features [are] similar to what you see at GU. But, at the end of the day, they would much rather have a five-lane configuration road,” said Fagan.

Other City Council members said they plan to vote against the proposed resolution.

As for the Zip’s on East Sprague, even though the owners said construction will result in them not making a profit this year, they are happy with the way it looks now.

“I’m ecstatic about how this looks. If anybody hasn’t been down here, they need to come down and see how this neighborhood is looking. It’s very welcoming at night. It’s well lit. You just need to come and check us out,” said Carlson.

© 2017 KREM-TV


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