News and Tribune

July 20, 2013

Minor headaches,major potential in downtown Jeffersonville work

Chestnut Street reconstruction worth the wait, business owners say

By BRADEN LAMMERS
braden.lammers@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — A construction-related hole at Spring and Chestnut streets in Jeffersonville’s downtown historic district might remain longer than expected.

Add to the mix the enhancement project on Chestnut Street, and some downtown businesses are feeling the pinch of construction work despite focusing on the long-term benefits.

As part of the city’s Chestnut Street reconstruction project, the intersection of Spring and Chestnut streets was being repaired, but the need to fix a brick sewer in the intersection — the source of the hole — threatened to extend its closure. At Jeffersonville’s Board of Public Works meeting it was thought that the need to repair the combined sewer could extend the intersection closure into next week.

City Engineer Andy Crouch had said the contractor for the project was still shooting to have the intersection reopened Friday. As of press time on Friday, the intersection remained closed. Messages left Friday with Crouch and with the project’s contractor, Pace Contracting LLC, were not returned.

Wastewater Superintendent Len Ashack also said he does not believe the contractor will be slowed down by the need to repair the sewer in the intersection, but the additional work did add cost to the project. The sewer repair totaled about $29,000 and was paid for by the Jeffersonville Sewer Board, Ashack said.

Chestnut Street is still expected to remain closed for 60 days while the road is widened and repaved.

Jeffersonville Planning Director Shane Corbin said the revamped streetscape will create a seamless transition from the end of the Big Four Bridge ramp at Chestnut and Pearl streets to Spring Street.



A DUSTING OF A CONSTRUCTION IMPACT

Some businesses in and around the Chestnut Street reconstruction project have said that the detour — which diverted traffic off Spring Street down an alley on the north side of a public parking lot rather than the traffic plan previously presented — and the ongoing construction has already had an impact on their business.

Owner of Perkfection Cafe Carole Vissing said the closure has kept some of her regular customers at bay.

“For one I don’t have my handicapped parking [and] I don’t think they’re paying attention to the sign,” she said.

A sign at the corner of Spring and Maple streets, where Perkfection is also located, limits vehicles to local traffic only and the handicapped spot is just past the sign. She said that her customers are avoiding going in the coffee shop because they haven’t driven past the local traffic only sign to park.

“Some of the regulars I’ve seen, I’ve said you can park there,” Vissing said.

Linda Williams, owner of Old Bridge Inn, which is located within the construction zone on Chestnut Street, said there are a few little problems, but the bed and breakfast will persevere.

“The good outweighs the bad,” she said.



ULTIMATE BUSINESS IMPACT

Both business owners said the temporary closure and the promise of what will eventually open as a gateway to downtown Jeffersonville will be worth the minor headaches.

“We’re not opposed to this at all, we’re very excited,” Williams said.

Vissing agreed and said she expects when the Big Four Bridge ramp is completed, which is anticipated in November, customers will be driven to the area and it will boost sales.

A recent count of users entering on the Kentucky side of the Big Four Bridge during a nine-day period in June showed that 45,000 pedestrians and 4,500 bicyclists accessed the bridge.

“It’s going to drastically increase business down here,” Vissing said. “If I even got 10 percent [of the people] that would be great and I’m thinking of all the shops down here [will benefit].”

With the expectations of an increase in business, local shops are also taking steps to prepare for the new customers.

“We’re going to be upping our staff,” Vissing said. “We started a buffet on the weekends and [we will] reinstate our liquor license.”

She explained that the coffee shop and cafe decided not to renew its liquor license a few years ago because the demand wasn’t there. With the influx of people crossing over the bridge into Jeffersonville, that’s expected to change.

Vissing said the changes will probably be implemented this fall.

For Williams the ultimate business impact will not be as measured. Even with the immediate construction impact lasting a little longer for her, she said the business will be fine.

“We’ll get through this, it’s only a 60-day project ... you know we’ve been here 15 years, in the big scheme of things 60 days is just a [brief time],” Williams said. “The big calamity of this project will not really occur until they take away our sidewalk to replace [it].”

But Williams added she is already trying to put plans in place to create an area for guests to be able to load and unload their luggage when the sidewalk construction is ongoing. She said she and her husband were looking ahead when they purchased two parking spots on Pearl Street because they knew the construction project was likely and that is was also likely that they were going to lose two spots out in front of their business because of the project.



IN A UNIQUE POSITION

The Old Bridge Inn is in a unique position once the new Chestnut Street corridor is open.

“I’m going to be the first thing that they see,” Williams said.

The bed and breakfast sits right at the end of the Big Four Bridge ramp, at the corner of Chestnut and Pearl streets. Williams, who also said she is a master gardener, said the couple took great care to plan out the beautification of their home and business.

“We’re really putting a lot of thought into all this,” she said. “We want to put our best foot forward for the town. That’s the idea here, I know what ... everybody has in mind when they approached us with this support letter. We get it and we want everyone to rise to the occasion and clean up, paint up and fix up.”

Williams went through the litany of improvements the couple has made, including planting three different types of redbud trees and native plants in the front yard. But the main focus of the 1836 home was along the side facing Pearl Street.

Williams said the area was bulldozed last year and the garden has been replaced with a series of evergreen shrubs, trees, iris flowers, lilies and vervain.

“We’ve concentrated on things that bloom all summer long,” she said of the flowers they planted. “We want it to be beautiful, we all want to fix up our properties, we all want to keep it clean ... [and] make it a showplace for people to say, ‘look how beautiful Jeffersonville is.’”