November 21, 2014

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Construction causing Oberlin parking problems

Heavy construction along College Street in Oberlin has affected parking as well as many local businesses. Customers eating in restaurants such as Agave can see heavy construction in plain sight. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

The view from Agave on College Street in Oberlin on Tuesday shows heavy equipment working on the road. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

OBERLIN — For small business owner Krista Long, the worst part of the recent street construction in Oberlin is the timing.

“The city needs to look at what went on there,” Long said of the recent construction, which has taken up almost half of the 100 block of West College Street in Oberlin.

The construction has been going on for almost three weeks and has shut down traffic during the day, making parking on parts of the street impossible, she said.

Long is the owner of the Ben Franklin store on West College Street, which sells books, art supplies and candy. Christmas is a busy time for the store, and Long said she is worried that the construction might affect the number of customers who come into the store to shop for the holidays.

“We have a lot of out-of-towners,” she said.

Long’s business is not the only one affected. Ever since construction started three weeks ago, store and restaurant owners in the area have been complained of dust, parking complications and for many, a loss of customers.

City Manager Eric Norenberg said the construction is one of three projects under way in the city this week. A little more than two weeks ago Oberlin started construction to replace sewer lines in the town and make improvements to the streetscape and, as of a week ago, the city started construction to make more accessible pedestrian street signals.

The construction project has made what is a sometimes tough task of finding parking downtown even more difficult.

The construction project has made what is a sometimes tough task of finding parking downtown even more difficult.

Norenberg said the city has tried to be as open as possible with local businesses about the construction.

“We’re communicating with businesses,” Norenberg said. “We’re trying to coordinate it all … to keep businesses open.”

While shops in the area have been able to stay open, many owners and managers said that it’s difficult to keep customers coming in, especially when parking is scarce and the street is dusty.

Elaine Hammond who works at Smith Furnishings said that many customers try to park in front of the store when there isn’t construction. Now that construction is going on, it’s been difficult for customers and employees alike to park and come to the store.

“We have employees and customers vying for parking places (behind the store),” Hammond said, adding that the dust created by the construction was “unbelievable.”

Brad Mitchell, the manager of Agave, a restaurant in the area, is taking the construction for what it is.

“There’s nothing you can really do … except ride it out,” he said.

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.