More road closings begin downtown Monday

Dwayne Yates

Robert Morson, owner of Riverside Wine and Imports, hustled back and forth in shirt and tie from 1 to 4 p.m., serving his selection of beer and wine to a packed house of customers Saturday during a wine tasting event.

Days this busy have become rare since the Crain Street bridge construction project began in 2009. Morson said having Fairchild Avenue and some parallel-running streets blocked off for so long caused clientele from Stow to not come in for months. Business was bad until recently when Fairchild Avenue reopened and barrels and cones were removed from North Mantua and business returned close to normal.

“We’ve had customers come in and say, ‘It was tough to get here, and there were barrels in front of your place. And we’re just now coming back,’” Morson said.

But starting today, business owners on North Mantua might experience the same decline in business for three additional weeks while the four-lane street is reduced to two 10-foot lanes running in opposite directions.

The lane reduction is just one of a few changes happening. The entrances to Cuyahoga Street and Fairchild Avenue from state Route 43 will be closed for three weeks. Traffic on Lake Street will be shifted onto temporary pavement while the street is transformed into a 10-foot eastbound lane and an 11-foot westbound lane with no turning lanes.

From Brady Street to the Lake Street and Crain Avenue intersection, North Water Street will be closed 138 days, or sometime in August. And Crain Avenue will also be closed between North Water Street and North Depeyster Street for 138 days.

Across the street, business at Digger’s Bar and Grill has also been affected. Owner Sue Helmling said fewer people have been coming in, which has affected money the business is making, and traffic disruptions have caused people to disrespect her property.

“All last year they were working right in front of my building,” Helmling said. “The street was cut off, so everybody was using my driveway as a road.”

Danita Flaningan, owner of Hutch Pet Shop, which sits on the corner of Crain Avenue and Lake Street, worries people will not know they can still access her store even with the construction.

“It’s supposed to be open to residents and businesses, and my biggest concern is that they’re not going to let people know well enough that they’re allowed to come through (the barriers) to come here,” Flaningan said.

City engineer James Bowling and city manager Dave Ruller failed to respond to e-mails over the weekend inquiring about the new construction.

But although the construction is inconvenient for business, Morson has a positive outlook on the project.

“I think it’s a great thing for Kent,” Morson said. “It looks phenomenal. I like what they’ve done, but it’s definitely impacted our business in a negative way.”

The entire project is expected to be finished Dec. 2012.

Contact Dwayne Yates at [email protected].