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Lengthy Streetscaping Project Bothers Businesses

One business owner has already decided to leave the Cleveland Street area, while others are seriously considering it.

When Clearwater Patch , he believed the Cleveland Street streetscaping project that was creeping toward his sub shop was not going to adversely affect his business.

Eleven months later, Saydi, owner of , is unsure if he will be able to survive much longer.

Saydi, who has been at the corner of Cleveland and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue for almost 25 years, was confident the quality of his food combined with the loyalty of his longtime customers would keep him afloat during the period when the project would affect his section of Cleveland.

But on the heels of the city announcing an extension of Phase II of the project from February to April, Saydi and other business owners are thinking about packing up and leaving the area that has been home to their companies for decades.

“Business is bad. It’s been bad since they started the project last February,” Saydi says. “We have our regulars who still come in, but as far as walk-up business, well, there is none.

“We are hurting. We are surviving and paying the bills, but that’s about it.”

Saydi isn’t the only local business owner who is feeling the effects of the streetscaping project.

Jackie Henegar, owner of , was greatly affected by the construction when it was directly in front of her shop a year ago.

Now that the project is finished on her section of Cleveland and has moved south, she is upset at the results, which has choked off access to her window shop.

“I’m disappointed they shut off my street,” Henegar, who has been here for 64 years, says of the lack of a turn-in from the southbound lane of Cleveland. “I told them I have to get in and out, but you can't from that side.

"As far as what they've done, it's pretty. But I'm a little perturbed about the flow of traffic."

Asked how she planned on dealing with the new layout, Henegar was pragmatic.

The city "asked me if I was interested in selling, and I told them to make me an offer. We’ll move, but it will be at a price,” she said.

One local company that got an offer and will relocate is the Thrift Store, located directly across the street from Mr. Submarine.

According to manager Steven Girardi, the shop will be moving to U.S. 19 in the next couple of months.

The streetscaping "has hurt us. It was hurting us before it moved down here because people were having a hard time getting here. Now it’s even worse,” he said.

"But we knew this was coming, so we sold the property to the city last year."

Although signs are posted announcing access to the affected section of Cleveland for the purpose of visiting the businesses, Girardi is quick to point out that no one wants to navigate the perils of a construction area.

“People think they can’t turn into here," he said. "It looks like a war zone.”

Gerry Ashley January 24, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Just who are the officials in the city administration that are so blind to the damage they are causing small businesses along the streets here? Has ANY thought gone into how to provide the least impact to businesses in this area? It would appear not. It's tough enough for small businesses - the backbone of America - to make it in the current economic environment. Now THESE clowns that run the highway department and road construction are allowed to impose their incompetence on these small business owners (many who have been here for decades)? I've got a suggestion: How about we reduce THE CITY OFFICIALS' and PROJECT COORDINATORS' income until the project is completed? Maybe THEN they would make the effort to resolve this mess they've caused with their arrogance and incompetence . I know several business owners here who are ready to pack it in. That will mean job losses, empty store fronts (just what Clearwater needs MORE of, right?) and loss of revenue. Well, at least the city officials are CONSISTENT in running businesses out of the area. What a bunch of HACKS we have running this city into the ground!
Sumpters January 24, 2012 at 11:39 AM
There is not enough parking downtown on Cleveland. It is easier to frequent businesses that have free parking. I avoid driving down Cleveland whenever I have to visit City Hall or go to Natures Food Patch. Also, some people have expressed the concern of the take over of downtown Clearwater by the Scientologists.
Sumpters January 24, 2012 at 11:43 AM
I agree.
Jake January 24, 2012 at 11:57 AM
I cannot believe there are no breaks in the medians. How traffic friendly is that? I feel for not only the Cleveland St. businesses but all the surrounding ones as well. The construction crews need to step it up a little and get this project done!
Gerry Ashley January 24, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Clearly, the Scientologists have made little or no effort to make non-members feel welcome down there unless you're wearing khaki pants and a blue shirt. It makes it tough for anyone down there to have a business that's NOT tied in with them. First things first: I'm stripping clearwater of its' capital "C" because it's been run so far into the ground, it doesn't deserve it at this time. Blame the lame politicians for that. Congratulations, folks, our politicians have sold out downtown clearwater and have nothing to show for it (except possibly money in your own pockets). But all anyone has to do to grasp the big picture is to drive through downtown clearwater to see all the brand new retail shops that have been sitting there empty for several YEARS. And with empty storefronts comes NO TAX REVENUE. NO WORKERS getting paid and paying taxes. And no small businesses making money enough to stay in business serving other businesses or people who might have come into clearwater IF THERE WERE ANY STORES or if there wasn't such a hassle on the city streets. Downtown clearwater was once a thriving, happening city. Now it's virtually a ghost town. It's actually a great metaphor for what's happened to this country in general. Congratulations, clearwater politicians. You've managed to screw us at the local level in a manner similar to how the government has screwed us at the Federal level. How do you even LOOK at yourselves?
JIm Borst January 24, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Great concern, make it pretty, drive everyone out and build that which they want.
Merrill January 24, 2012 at 12:56 PM
I am tending to agree with Gerry, Jim and Jake. Having moved to Clearwater (with great enthusiasm) in 2006, I avoid the downtown area unless absolutely necessary. It appearss the City does everything possible to drive away customers and businesses that are not affiliated with it's largest "resident church". The last straw has been that unending construction on the more Eastern part of Cleveland St. It's near impossible to patronize any of the businesses there. I have learned shortcuts and only visit when a trip to Nature's Food Patch is absolutely necessary...previously I was on the street several times weekly! That's lost bisiness for the independent retailers and the city. I doubt my situation is unique. I'm feeling that the city planners have constructing a best practices experiment on how to discourage an entire population from patronizing local businesses and how to devalue commercial real estate while wasting tax $$ on "improvements" with a negative impact. How sad...the sole pedestrians one sees now are either city employees on break or the uniformed "zombies" on their daily rounds. Was there a study done to determine how best Clearwater can be emptied out? If so, it worked very well!
BKL January 24, 2012 at 02:23 PM
I want so much to love downtown Clearwater!! I want so to be a part of it! But I agree with so much of the above comment. And then a store to move to US 19??? Uggh! Horrible place. Clearwater I envision to be car, bike and pedestrian friendly!! Could be wonderful!! Streetscaping is so needed, so beautiful, parklike, enticing you to be out and about, but not to be blocking too many businesses. Store rents are much too high, an unrealistic perceived value going on here... Look at St. Pete. Look at the artists popping up, I want to be a part of that there and here in Clearwater. I want it to be vibrant, gallery walks and it already has very cool restaurants... We did so much of this in Pittsburgh, bringing nightlife classiness in with such activities. My photo studio/gallery was a part of that scene and that was very enjoyable. All of our galleries would host openings on the same evening every month. But we could not do so in Clearwater with such high rent, so we need existing businesses to host us and our artists work.
Dale Atchison January 24, 2012 at 04:16 PM
I went to a couple meetings held by the downtown development association a few years ago, at which they made plain the older less attractive businesses would be squeezed out to more appropriate locations away from the downtown corridor; they specifically mentioned St Vincent de Paul and any other organizations whose primary function was helping the homeless... the homeless problem needs to be moved away from the high-rise condos envisioned for the Cleveland Street corridor. So understand, the problem at this time isn't incompetence; they're sticking to the plan, choking off business to the current owners so they'll give up and leave, so specialty shops more attractive to the new genteel residents of the area can move in. This is definitely not the Clearwater I fell in love with 20 years ago.
Dustin Rambo January 30, 2012 at 01:45 PM
If clearwater's plan I to get the homeless out then I agree, but they need to realize how much money in taxes is lost until their plan comes to fruition.

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