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Mixed views on how downtown construction affects area business

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Mixed views on how downtown construction affects area business
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Construction season is being felt in Syracuse. One of the most noticeable work sites is along West Fayette Street, where work is underway on the Connective Corridor. It's also part of the popular Armory Square neighborhood, home to many city businesses. Sarah Blazonis talked to some about how this is affecting them.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Traffic is down to one lane along W. Fayette St. and part of the street is ripped up, as are sidewalks in front of some stores and restaurants. Some owners told me they're excited this project is happening and they're looking forward to the end result. But a meeting was held tonight where a few businesses gathered to talk about the hardships this has caused and what they can do to bring more people downtown.

When the Black Olive made the move just a block from its old location to the corner of S. Clinton and W. Fayette Streets, a block of construction wasn't the view owners envisioned.

"If we knew this construction was going to happen, we would not have made the move," said Scott Chambers, public relations representative for the restaurant. "We do like this construction happening, but it's the wrong time of year."

Chambers says Connective Corridor construction has created a number of challenges since it started about four weeks ago. Business has been down by about $4,000 a week. That pain was especially felt during an unusually slow SU graduation weekend. And patio seating is out of the question.

A few business owners gathered at the Black Olive Tuesday to talk about other hurdles.

"Usually on Fridays and Saturdays, a lot of people come in because it's the weekend, but these days, due to the parking troubles, it's been hard to come in," said Jenny Zheng, translating for Qiping Chen, who owns the China Cafe across from the Black Olive.

But some say the ripped up sidewalks and blocked lanes are worth it to fix a street that took a beating by winter weather.

"It's the price of moving forward, it's the rebirth of Syracuse, the continuation of that," said David Hoyne, owner of Kitty Hoynes.

Hoyne says his pub and restaurant hasn't taken a major hit during construction, and some say the construction has actually been good for business.

"A lot of people are coming down to see what's going on, and we haven't had any problem at all with people getting to the store," said Joel Shapiro, owner of the Mr. Shop clothing store.

But those who haven't been so lucky worry about the work that's still to come.

Chambers says the Black Olive may lose its signage when construction moves across the street, and he'd like to see those associated with the corridor step in to help.

"Give them free parking for the weekend, or even these small businesses, give them some kind of tax break, give them some kind of incentive to stay here," said Chambers.

And while they haven't formally requested help from the city or other groups involved with the corridor, Chambers says some of the options discussed at Tuesday's organizational meeting were reaching out to garages in the area to see if they'd offer free parking to customers on weekends. The group also wants to look into whether help with advertising is available, and they may also organize a celebration aimed at bringing people downtown and reminding them they're still open for business.

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