Downtown construction discussed as holiday shopping season approaches

“Don’t close down 2nd Street during the holiday season,” pleaded downtown business owners to Muscatine City officials Thursday morning.

About 20 representatives from Muscatine businesses, the City of Muscatine and local contractors met at the Musser Public Library for a public information meeting about the upcoming E 2nd Street & Mulberry Avenue roundabout and the 2nd Street streetscaping construction projects.

Public Works Director Brian Stineman and City Engineer Jim Edgmond proposed to begin construction on the roundabout in October and the streetscaping project next spring.

“You’re killing me here,” said Melissa Osborne, owner of two 2nd Street businesses, Creations by Oz and St. Mary’s Bed & Breakfast.  She told city officials that by starting the construction on the roundabout this fall will effectively stop traffic coming into downtown from the east right in the heart of the most important retail season of the year.  Osborne and other business owners present said the 4th quarter holiday shopping season is what makes or breaks a retail business for the year.

“We do about 60% of our business from now until the end of the year,” said Dennis Froelich representing Feather Your Nest Interiors.

The consensus of those attending the meeting is these projects are needed and in the long run will be good for downtown.  The collective concern of the business owners is more about how construction project detours dramatically alter traffic flow and they hoped the City might reconsider the timing of the roundabout construction.  Wester Drug, Sunrise Galleries, The Merrill Hotel, and Great River Tire & Service were other businesses represented at the meeting.

City officials listened and discussed possible alternatives.  Business leaders suggested anytime throughout the year, other than October through December, would be better timing for the construction of the roundabout.

They were less concerns about the 2nd Street streetscaping construction schedules.  The city has been planning to do one half-block at a time in order to keep the street open and said they will work with each individual business to help accommodate their customers during construction.  The Public Works Department will present project plans to the City Council at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 19 in the City Council Chambers.  The presentation is open to the public.

“We’re not trying to fight against you,” said Stineman.  “We’re trying to find a way to get these projects done to help improve downtown business.  We’re trying to lessen the stress and hardship for businesses during construction.”

Froelich said, “the big thing is for us to know.”

Stineman assured those attending he and City staff will review the construction plans and timelines suggesting the projects could better be completed simultaneously next spring.  He also said the Muscatine City Council will make final decisions on when construction will happen.