Businesses Affected by Wheeling Streetscape Work Try To Look for … – Wheeling Intelligencer

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May 24, 2023
Crews dig out rubble from ongoing work with the Downtown Streetscape Project in Wheeling. (Photo by Derek Redd)
WHEELING — Orange traffic cones and clouds of construction dust have consumed downtown Wheeling for months now, in light of construction efforts that are part of the Streetscape Project.
The construction has raised concerns regarding small businesses located downtown, specifically how customers will navigate traffic and detours to visit their favorites.
The Streetscape Project began construction in October, aiming to beautify the downtown area by adding ADA-compliant curb cuts, widened sidewalks, decorative brickwork, trees and landscaping, street lights, traffic lights and more along Main St. and Market St.
To address these concerns, entire lanes of traffic have been closed, causing issues for businesses that rely on metered parking.
Grant Coleman has owned and operated Mugshots coffee shop for the last three years at 1109 Main St. and says the construction affects the number of customers he sees daily.
“People who used to stop every day of the week will stop once a week now and say that they wanted to come every day, but there was nowhere to park,” he said.
Additionally, he says a large part of his business depends on customers being able to come inside.
“When I created this, I wasn’t trying to create a coffee shop necessarily, I was trying to create a space in the community,” he said. “The atmosphere, the environment and the community that we’ve created here are the most important things for this business.”
However, Coleman says he can see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the recent construction.
“While it’s frustrating, it also provides a lot of hope,” he said. “There’s more going on in downtown Wheeling than there has ever been in my lifetime, so it’s exciting to see all these new developments and to think about what it’s going to look like when it’s all done.”
He also says he has increased Mugshots’s social media presence to combat the construction preventing people from coming downtown.
“They [customers] have to remember there are businesses down here that need their support, and in order to make sure people remember that, you have to have a bigger presence online,” he said.
Christopher Burress is the owner of Tito’s Sloppy Doggs which has been operating at 1068 Market St. for the last seven years.
He said the lack of parking acts as the main inconvenience for his customers.
“We have at least five times a day somebody’s complaining about the parking,” he said. “How there’s no parking or they went around the block four times before they finally found a spot.”
He also says he has seen a direct correlation between current construction and the number of daily customers.
“We have probably dropped down about 25% to 30% because there’s no parking out front,” he said. “A lot of them can’t find a parking spot and won’t come back.”
However, Burress remains optimistic and says he hopes for a better and brighter downtown Wheeling at the conclusion of the Streetscape Project.
“Once it’s done, I hope we’ll start driving more people down here, get a couple more businesses down here and have a reason to come to downtown Wheeling,” he said.
In light of these inconveniences, the City of Wheeling made the decision to waive business license fees for businesses in the affected area this past March.
Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott says the decision is aimed at alleviating small business owners’ challenges through the completion of the project.
“It’s just one small gesture,” he said. “We’re always looking at ways we can help, including recognizing that a lot of these businesses and building owners are going to go through a tough period during the construction on this project.”
Elliot says he hopes local residents continue to visit downtown Wheeling despite the construction-related traffic.
“I really just want to encourage folks, you know, not to give up because of some of the current construction,” he said. “It is a necessary process to go through, but in about 18 months it’s going to be a much-improved experience both for drivers and for pedestrians.”
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