Main St. project causes con­cern

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­

A num­ber of down­town Ne­wark busi­ness own­ers are ex­press­ing con­cern over a road con­struc­tion project planned for Main Street.

Slated to last at least 18 months, the project will re­sult in lane clo­sures and at times will shut down ac­cess to cer­tain side streets – fac­tors that will keep cus­tomers away, busi­ness own­ers say.

“There’s go­ing to be a lot of ca­su­al­ties,” said Carl Ge­o­rigi, CEO of the Plat­inum

Din­ing Group, which runs Tav­erna. “There’s go­ing to be a lot of busi­nesses that will not sur­vive. Main Street is the lifeblood of Ne­wark. The vi­tal­ity of Main Street will be in­cred­i­bly im­pacted by all of this.”

In dis­cus­sion for sev­eral years, the con­struc­tion project in­volves a full re­con­struc­tion of the road­way. The work will go be­yond a sim­ple repaving and ad­dress struc­tural prob­lems in the con­crete be­low the road sur­face, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials.

“The con­crete has out­lived its life cycle,” said Joe Hof­s­tee, project man­ager for AECOM, a Delaware De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion con­sul­tant. “The road­way is ba­si­cally at the point where it has to be re­ha­bil­i­tated.”

The project will go out to bid this fall, and ini­tial work could be­gin as early as the end of Novem­ber. The project is ex­pected to be com­pleted by the sum­mer of 2020.

The work will be done in phases, start­ing at the east end of Main Street, near the Ne­wark Free Li­brary. De­pend­ing on the con­trac­tor, some phases could be done si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

There will be lane re­stric­tions through­out the course of the project, but one lane will re­main open at all times.

Two Main Street in­ter­sec­tions, Tyre Av­enue and Academy Street, will be closed for two months each, though not at the same time.

“There will be no ac­cess from Academy Street onto Main Street or vice versa, Main Street onto Academy Street,” Adam Weiser, of AECOM, said.

Other in­ter­sec­tions, like South Chapel Street, will see week­end clo­sures.

The project also in­cludes the in­stal­la­tion of ad­di­tional pedes­trian cross­ing bumpouts and two parklets fea­tur­ing benches and land­scap­ing.

More than a dozen busi­ness own­ers met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of DelDOT and AECOM last month to dis­cuss their con­cerns about the lengthy con­struc­tion


Ryan Ger­man, owner of Caffé Gelato, said he be­lieves revenue for down­town busi­nesses will drop 20 per­cent dur­ing the con­struc­tion.

“The small­est, most frag­ile busi­nesses that have the least cash re­serves are go­ing to close,” Ger­man said. “Maybe the city doesn’t care be­cause when the road looks re­ally nice and we have the parklets in and ev­ery­thing looks beau­ti­ful, some­one is go­ing to fill that re­tail space.”

He said that the con­struc­tion will block park­ing me­ters and ar­gued that DelDOT should de­lay the start un­til the city builds a park­ing garage. A garage has been dis­cussed for years but does not ap­pear to be in the city’s plans at this time.

He added that he wants DelDOT to con­duct a fea­si­bil­ity study to ex­am­ine the project’s im­pact on busi­nesses.

Nic DeCaire, owner of Fu­sion Fit­ness, said the clo­sure of the Tyre Av­enue in­ter­sec­tion will make it harder for peo­ple to get to his gym and

the other busi­nesses in Mar­ket East Plaza.

“That’s not just putting me out of busi­ness, you’re putting the comic book shop out of busi­ness, the hair sa­lon, every­body in Mar­ket East Plaza – the Chi­nese food store, LabCorp,” DeCaire said.

The con­sen­sus among the busi­ness own­ers was that they wanted the work done only at night and spread out over a longer du­ra­tion, such as only do­ing con­struc­tion dur­ing the sum­mer, when traf­fic is lighter.

“We all agree it needs to get done, it’s just how to least im­pact the busi­nesses,” said Sasha Aber, owner of Home Grown Cafe. “We’d rather have a longer project that keeps us vi­able.”

Aber said she wor­ries the con­struc­tion will cause cus­tomers to think Main Street is closed, de­spite DelDOT’s prom­ise to keep one lane open.

“We al­ready have a park­ing per­cep­tion is­sue,” she said. “Whether you’re clos­ing one lane or not, peo­ple look at it as a whole. The pub­lic doesn’t re­ally care what you’re clos­ing.”

Hof­s­tee ar­gued it is more ef­fi­cient and less dis­rup­tive to do the work all at once.

“If we’re out there do­ing spot work, it’s a longer pe­riod of time. In­stead of two years of Main Street be­ing per­ceived as un­der con­struc­tion, you’re look­ing at five years that Main Street is be­ing per­ceived as un­der con­struc­tion,” he said. “Peo­ple are go­ing to say, ‘When is Main Street ever go­ing to be open?’ The quicker you can get in and out, the bet­ter it is for the busi­nesses.”

He pledged to work with the busi­nesses as much as pos­si­ble.

“We’re try­ing to fig­ure out a good way to min­i­mize the im­pact on all the busi­nesses along Main Street,” he said.

On Tues­day, Weiser said he was still try­ing to find a way to ac­com­mo­date mer­chants but had no up­dates to share.


A week­long ef­fort to tem­po­rar­ily patch the worst ar­eas of Main Street in June pro­vided mo­torists a glimpse of what travel through down­town will look like for 18 months start­ing as early as this fall.

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