Grover Beach businesses tired of construction

More than four months of construction on two blocks of West Grand Avenue in Grover Beach have taken their toll on local business owners, spoiling what many hoped would be a busy summer.

A few business owners say the street, sidewalk and other improvements will look attractive when complete — but they’re just ready for them to be finished.

“In the beginning, you want to help out,” said Chris Rivas, the owner of Station Grill at 170 W. Grand Ave. “You realize it’s for the common good, and you hope everyone will benefit. I don’t think anyone thought it would go like this.”

The $1.5 million project adds new sidewalks, landscaped medians, crosswalks, palm trees and benches to a stretch of West Grand Avenue between Second and Fourth streets, according to city officials. They said the project is meant to improve the appearance of the city’s western gateway and safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

Construction was scheduled to start in January, but poor weather delayed the start to March 22. The project was expected to take about 100 working days — or four to five months — City Manager Bob Perrault said.

But that deadline passes today, and the work is not complete. That’s due to five days of weather delays and about six additional working days lost to unforeseen circumstances during construction, said Perrault and Greg Ray, the city engineer and public works director.

They said the final working day is scheduled for Aug. 26, but that could be pushed back a few additional days.

“The project is really in its final phases,” Perrault said. “There is paving happening ... which should be completed by the end of the week.”

After that, he said, traffic conditions in the area should greatly improve.

Some other work remains, including landscaping and installing lamp posts. But that shouldn’t inhibit access to the businesses, Perrault said.

“We (council members) all expressed concerns and wanted to get this done sooner,” Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals said Tuesday.

To help the businesses, the city offered them 20 percent of their rent for a three-month period. Perrault said the city has spent $17,172 assisting 12 businesses, plus an additional $9,227 on promotional advertising and signs to alert residents and tourists that the businesses were open during construction.

The money came from the city’s Improvement Agency and a small grant. Most of the $1.5 million for the project is covered by federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

Rivas, of Station Grill, said he’s heard from about a dozen local residents that they avoid the area because it became too difficult to figure out how to get to the businesses.

However, Rivas, who has owned the restaurant for 10 years, said he’s grateful to his customers for their continued support.

Next door at Cafe Vostro, co-owner Ken Voss marked his restaurant’s two-year anniversary Monday. He said the locals he’s trying to attract are avoiding West Grand Avenue, and his business is suffering.

Voss, who poured his retirement savings into the restaurant, is trying to get a loan so that he doesn’t have to close.

He said city officials have shown “true concern” for the welfare of his business.

“I think it’s going to look good,” he said. “A lot better than it did. But I don’t know if it will help me build up business.”

A few doors down, an employee at Shell Beach Floral Design said she knew the construction was scheduled when the business moved to West Grand Avenue last August.

“We’re just ready for it to be done,” Katie Baldwin said. “We’ve grown tired of the noise and the dust.”On a typical Friday, she said, she might have 20 customers walk in.

By 12:30 p.m. on a recent Friday, not one customer had entered the store.

Next door, at the ice cream parlor Monarca, owner Leticia Soria said she will have to dip into her retirement fund to pay rent. She received $520 in a two-month period from the city toward her rent, she said.Soria, who works for a government agency that she declined to identify, said she thinks the city should not have put $1.5 million toward “two tiny streets” and wants the federal government to audit the project to make sure the money was not squandered.

“It’s a waste of money,” she said. “If we were in the boom when everyone had money … fine. But this is all cosmetic.”

Perrault said the city is planning a celebration to mark the end of the construction. It likely won’t be until late September or early October.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.