Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Collegetown business owners say that years of ongoing construction have damaged stores’ success and lowered client return rates.

May 8, 2016

Construction Slows Collegetown Business

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The ongoing construction in Collegetown has had significant negative impacts on local businesses in recent years, according to store owners.

There are currently six construction projects underway in Collegetown, according to Phyllisa DeSarno, Deputy Director of the Economic Development Department of the City of Ithaca.

“Some of them [the constructions] started in the fall of 2015, so it’s been ongoing,” DeSarno said. “We are right now getting to the height of things and there will be other projects in the next few months, so it will be going on for probably in the range of another year up there, whether it be roads or new buildings.”

Jennifer Russler, the owner of Nail Candy Salon, said her business has lost many customers due to these continuous construction projects.

“I have had several clients call to say they would be unable to make their appointments that are scheduled because they were trying to find parking and couldn’t,” Russler said. “The client is then highly frustrated because they not only missed an appointment that they took the time out of their busy day, but they drove around in circles trying to park and were unsuccessful.”

“Not only are they mad and may never return to my business, but now I’ve lost money and my employees have lost money if it was their client,” she said.

Russler added that the continuous construction noise has disturbed business as well.

Marty Johnson, the owner of Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office and the co-founder of Collegetown Small Business Association, said his business has suffered because of the construction.

“These giant projects are operating in small little areas and are closing roads, creating noise, creating giant messes and creating incredible congestion on our streets,” Johnson said. “As a result, many locals are not coming to Collegetown like they used to to run errands, wander, eat and shop. So that has brought foot traffic way down, and that impacts all of our businesses tremendously.”

Johnson said he has been leading the CSBA in efforts to cooperate with the city to resolve issues that arise from construction.

“The CSBA communicates with each other and with officials from the City and Cornell to update on how we’re each impacted by what’s going on on our blocks and how what affects one block affects another by limiting traffic and access,” Johnson said. “On behalf of my store and as the co-founder of the CSBA, I have been working closely with the City of Ithaca.”

DeSarno’s communication with Johnson has helped the city and businesses cooperate to minimize the impact of construction projects, she said.

“I will meet with Marty intermittently on a regular basis and he will come to me with issues,” DeSarno said. “Then I go back to the city employees and try to come up with the right solution.”

Most recently, the CSBA and the City of Ithaca have worked together to reopen Dryden Road, according to Johnson.

“We have stated our case and raised awareness of our plight and have been able to work with the City and project managers to reopen our portion of Dryden Road to one-way traffic for the month of May,” Johnson said. “[This way], access to campus is easier for graduation weekend, and move-out season can go smoother in Collegetown.”

However, some businesses still remain skeptical of the extent to which the CSBA can help their current business struggles.

“[The CSBA] tries, but there’s only so much they can do,” Russler said.

Meanwhile, both the CSBA and City of Ithaca remain optimistic that while these projects are currently hurting business, they will ultimately be beneficial for the entirety of Collegetown.

“Even though the constructions are a disturbance right now, there will be more people living and working in Collegetown and that vibrancy means the businesses will do better,” DeSarno said.

Johnson added that he looks forward to the improvements these projects will bring.

“These new developments and buildings are going to be very great when they’re done, and attract hundreds and thousands of new residents to collegetown,” Johnson said. “It’s all for the betterment and growth of our neighborhood.”