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Businesses 'Hoping to Survive' as Wilson 'L' Construction Continues

By Josh McGhee | October 12, 2015 5:35am | Updated on October 12, 2015 8:34am
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With nearby "L" construction work, customers are having a hard time finding parking to patronize nearby businesses.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

UPTOWN — Ace Hardware has resided under the Uptown "L" tracks for 20 years, but disruption from the construction work at the Wilson station has the hardware store, at this point, just "hoping to survive."

"Sales are down like 30 to 40 percent, and the big issue is parking. It's hard to get to us. I'm depending on walking traffic [for business]," said Joseph Uchima, the owner of the store, at 4654 N. Broadway.

Ace Hardward isn't alone. With over a dozen businesses in the 4600 block of North Broadway and little to no parking, dedicated customers are struggling to reach the stores.

At Ace Hardware, customers are trying anything and everything to get within range, sometimes parking on the small patch of sidewalk in front of the store, which has led to a few tickets, said Jeanie Grabbe, who's worked at the store for two decades.

"There's no place to park, and the streets are blocked off. Customers have to park a block away to get here, or people just don't know we're open because of the construction," said Grabbe, noting the giant red sign declaring "open during construction" has done nothing to drum up business.

"Our normal accounts aren't even coming in," she said.

Ace Hardware employees said the giant sign has done little to drum up business. [DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

Last week, crews shut down northbound traffic along the stretch, which only made matters worse for businesses, Grabbe said. The construction also will detour the No. 36 bus around the area through Nov. 6, according to CTA.

"As with all large-scale projects, the CTA is working closely with the alderman and local businesses to notify community members of temporary street and sidewalk closures and parking restrictions throughout construction. Every effort is and will be made to minimize the impact of project work on customers and the surrounding community, including local businesses," said Jeff Tolman, a spokesman for the CTA.

"Project work was specifically designed to allow customers continued access to the station and Red Line service for the duration of construction," he said. "The business community and the alderman are very supportive of this project overall and appreciate that the station is able to remain open throughout the construction period."

Quintrice Scott, a beautician at Afrikko Hair and Fashion Boutique, 4635 N. Broadway, said the problems began at the shop when construction began about two months ago and gobbled up parking.

"It dropped from about 25-30 appointments a week to about 10-12," said Scott, who was finishing a cigarette as a jackhammer filled the block with noise and a cloud of dust blew by.

"All that dust is an issue. [Customers] say it's too dusty up there, right now. Their hair gets dusty as soon as they get it done. They don't like that," said Scott.

Quintrice Scott, a beautician at Afrikiko Hair and Fashion Boutique, 4635 N. Broadway, said business has dwindled since construction began about two months ago and gobbled up parking. [DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

Across the street from Ace Hardware, at the Fine Food Mart, business is way down from the usual $1,700-$2,000 worth of goods usually sold daily. Instead, the store is selling about $1,200 worth of goods. But that's not the end of the problems, said Mohammed Alamawi, who has owned the store near Broadway and Leland Avenue since 2010.

"I can't get deliveries in. Some drivers say they can't bring the truck around, so they just don't stop. Now, I have to go out and buy the products myself," Alamawi said.

While construction has been happening for months, since construction began near Leland Avenue, and a gate was erected in front of the building around the second week of September, matters became worse for Finer Food Mart. That portion of construction was only supposed to last about a week, according to Alamawi, but work continues outside the store, he said.

"When they started we were fine, but it's definitely been worse since they blocked Leland. They said it won't last long, but it's been three weeks," said Alamawi, adding that "days like these" he wants to march down to the alderman's office, but he has yet to voice his concerns.

The CTA has not received any complaints from local businesses aside from complaints due to limited parking in the area, Tolman said.

"There have been no complaints about dust. While some temporary fencing has been erected to ensure safety in the area, the CTA has worked to place signage notifying people that the businesses remain open," the CTA spokesman said.

About a block south of the construction, at Ald. James Cappleman's 46th Ward office, no one's heard any complaints from businesses, but that could be because a community liaison has been visiting businesses along the stretch during construction, said Tressa Feher, chief of staff for the alderman.

The $203 million reconstruction project is expected to be finished next fall, the CTA said.

Business has plummeted at the Fine Food Mart since this gate went up at Leland Avenue, the store's owner said. [DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

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