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Businesses, customers say construction project will hamper parking, shopping and seniors in Seymour

Businesses, customers say construction project will hamper parking, shopping and seniors in Seymour

The Original Article was posted in the New Haven Register

Businesses, customers say construction project will hamper parking, shopping and seniors in Seymour

Say apartment construction project will hamper sales, parking, affect seniors

SEYMOUR >> Construction of a 26-unit senior apartment building is slated to get underway Monday, and some downtown business merchants fear road closures, fencing and other inconveniences during that time could shutter their livelihoods.

Many of those merchants, along with their dedicated customers, came out in force to Town Hall Thursday for an informational meeting to hear about how the project, slated for Columbus Street, could impact downtown.

The standing-room only crowd listened as Officer John Harkins, the town’s new community police officer, along with a panel of town officials, tried to quell the fears of business owners and customers who are afraid they’ll have no place to park during the construction phase. And if there’s nowhere to park, business owners say people will go elsewhere.

At issue is the project the town Planning and Zoning Commission approved in November 2012. Local Architect Joe Migani of O’Riordan Migani Architects, plans to build 26 senior housing units at 38 Columbus St. The roughly $4.6 million project is the second phase of Migani’s existing senior apartment complex at 16 Bank St., which was built in 2008 in the former Eckhardt Furniture building.

The five-story building will feature handicapped-accessible, one-bedroom apartments, a community room, elevator and 15 on-site parking spaces.

A lack of parking downtown has been an ongoing issue, and the new apartment building is going to eat up the existing parking lot currently leased by a popular town business, the All-American General Store, at 16 Bank St., which also includes a day spa and apothecary.

General Store Owner Kim Dulka is worried she’s going to go out of business. She’s also concerned that seniors and handicapped individuals living in Migani’s existing apartments will have to park farther away in municipal lots during construction.

“It’s incomprehensible to ask seniors to park in the municipal lots, especially when many rely on wheelchairs and walkers,” said Dulka. “And I do not see our businesses surviving this.”

Harkins acknowledged that parking has always been an issue downtown, and there’s nothing he’d like more than having a “20-story parking garage,” but that probably won’t be happening anytime soon.

Harkins said Migani and town officials, including the police, have met many times to discuss the issues that will come along with construction of the building.

What’s been established is that construction deliveries will take place all day on Mondays, when a lot of the downtown businesses are closed, and from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesday to Friday, to minimize impact to area businesses. When the steel for the building’s interior structure arrives, Columbus Street will be closed for a week or so for safety reasons, and business owners will be given 48 hours’ notice, per Police Chief Michael Metzler.

Those seniors with handicapped parking stickers living in the existing building have been given paid parking spots by Migani. Parking options for those unable to use the lot in front of the General Store, or others looking to park, can use the town lots at Trestle Tavern, the fish by-pass on Wakeley Street and part of the Strand Parking lot. There also are 29 spaces on Main Street which won’t be affected. Harkins also plans to speak with Bank of America and AutoZone officials, who have private lots, to see if something can be worked out so the public can park in their lots.

Construction, according to Migani’s attorney, Dominick Thomas, said is estimated to last “12 to 16 months.” However, the actual building will be up and enclosed “by the end of this summer,” mitigating inconveniences sooner than later.

Construction workers, per contract, will be required to park in the Trestle Tavern parking lot, so as not to take away any spaces in front or around town businesses, Thomas said.

Elizabeth Pisano, who just opened her Lizzie’s Corner consignment shop at 19 Bank St., suggested the town assist businesses during construction and see if a shuttle service, or trolley, could pick people up at nearby Stop & Shop or other nearby businesses to ensure customers get to their favorite downtown shops.

Harkins said he will work with business owners and hold monthly meetings during the project to continue the dialogue and ensure business owners keep their livelihoods.

“This is about minimizing the impact on the merchants and the public,” he said. “We’re not here to hurt the merchants, and we’re not in the business of closing businesses.”

Harkins and downtown parking attendant Pat Lombardi assured the public signage will be installed, informing people of other parking options available to them.

Attorney Steve Kulas, with his offices on Bank Street, encouraged the town to do something for the business owners who he said will experience “serious economic hardships” during construction. He suggested the town offer some tax breaks and other incentives.

Henry Kornacki, 91, a World War II Veteran and avid fan of the General Store, calling it the “greatest venue in this state,” said the former Housatonic Lumber property would’ve made an excellent choice for Migani’s project. He doesn’t want to see the business shuttered.

“Some of the most wonderful people in this town and surrounding towns come here (for the food, the live music and other events) … and now you’re going to farm them out,” he said.

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