Construction affecting some local businesses

Alvin Gardner, the owner/operator of Pedals and Pistons, 621 Clark St., said his location next to the future Greenville Transportation Activity Center (GTAC) will be good for business … if he can stay in business until it opens in the spring.

“If I can make it until then I know things will start rolling,” Gardner said of his bicycle repair and retail shop. “But things have been rough since all the road closures started happening.”

The GTAC on Bonners Lane – between South Clark and South Pitt streets – is a multi-million-dollar transportation center that will provide a hub with access to multiple forms of transportation including Greenville Area Transit (GREAT), Pitt Area Transit (PATS) and East Carolina University transit systems, taxi services, Greyhound buses, shuttles to the Pitt-Greenville Airport and bus service to the Amtrak station in Wilson. Medical and hotel shuttles potentially could locate there as well. The facility also will house the Center City police substation.

“I heard that the GPD bicycle police will be working out of there as well,” Gardner said. “How perfect is that?”

Gardner, who has worked out of the location for about two years, said that his business started being hurt before the GTAC construction began when parts of Dickinson Avenue were closed as part of the 10th Street Connector project.

The 10th Street Connector is a more than $30 million project to provide a modern multi-lane connection between East Carolina University and the city’s medical district. The 1.4-mile boulevard will stretch from Memorial Drive over Dickinson Avenue to 10th Street at Evans Street. It will widen symmetrically down Farmville Boulevard before rising over the Dickinson Avenue railroad tracks.

“The first year here was great. … I had a full-time employee, and we were putting out a lot of bikes,” Gardner said. “A lot of my business came from people cutting from Reade Circle to Dickinson Avenue. People would stop in and they would see the shop, and I got a lot of business that way.

“That dried up pretty quickly after Dickinson was closed,” he said.

Property acquisition for the connector began in 2012. About 35 businesses were displaced, and almost all were small, local businesses — some had been in the same location for 50 years or more before they were given no choice but to leave their properties for whatever compensation they were provided.

Gardner said he does not want his business to be another that has to move because of the construction in the area surrounding his shop.

“I know that this area is growing, and that is great,” he said. “But too many businesses are being hurt because of all the road closures and detours.”

Although Dickinson Avenue has been reopened, half of Clark Street has been closed for the GTAC project.

“The signs in front of the open end of Clark Street said that Clark Street is closed,” Gardner said. “So people don’t come back up this part of the street. And there is another ‘Road Closed’ sign that sits right in front of the entrance to my shop … it makes it look like I’m not open anymore.”

Gardner added that he also has received little to no contact from city staff about the project’s expected completion date.

“I’ve only received one call from the city and that was to let me know that they were about to closed the one half of Clark Street,” he said. “I tried to get more information but they couldn’t tell me anything other than they were about to close the street.

“I know once the GTAC opens I’ll be fine,” Gardner remarked. “But I have to figure out how to stay open until then … I wish the city could find a way to help out some of these businesses that are taking a hit during the construction. Anything at all would make a big difference.”

Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly said the city would look into the issue and encouraged businesses that are being affected to contact their local representatives.

“This is something we need to take a closer look at as we become aware of it,” Connelly said. “This is something I don’t want to see happening … we don’t want new businesses to come in and drive out the ones that already are here.”

District 1 Councilwoman Kandie Smith is concerned that another city project, the Town Creek Culvert, potentially could hurt some small businesses in the Uptown District.

A culvert is an infrastructure system allowing water to flow under roads, railroads and other above-ground structures. Greenville’s Town Creek Culvert is a pipe-like structure large enough to walk upright in some places. The culvert begins near West Ninth Street and Ficklen Street and empties into the Tar River near east of Reade and First streets at the Town Common.

The structure was constructed prior to 1935 and needs to be replaced. Its deteriorating condition has contributed to localized flooding and has caused several pavement failures.

The upgraded culvert, originally built for a two-year storm, will be made of reinforced concrete and built for a 25-year storm.

However, the multi-million dollar rebuild will cause multiple road closures during its expected 18-month construction stage. Smith said she is concerned that customers might be unable to get to some businesses at times or will assume a business is not open because of road closures.

“That is something I do not want to see,” Smith commented. “We have to make sure that people are kept aware of businesses that are still open but might be hard to get to at times.

“This project is one that is necessary,” Smith said. “But I want to make sure that we are protecting our Uptown businesses while its going on.”

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