The dust floating through the air won’t hit the ground for at least six months, but despite the inconvenience of extensive University construction on and around Chapel Street, local businesses are seeing clear skies ahead.
In the midst of ongoing renovations to the Art & Architecture Building and Jonathan Edwards College, and the construction of a new History of Art Department building, both foot traffic and available parking spaces on High, York and Chapel streets have decreased in recent months, local merchants interviewed by the News said. But several local businessmen also said the high density of construction workers has brought them new costumers and boosted business.
All of the local business owners interviewed expressed grievances about the dust and noise from the construction sites. But Jazmine Caramanica, assistant manager of Clare Jones clothing store, said more customers have been walking through her doors since construction began last spring.
“The construction guys come into the store and buy stuff for their wives,” she said. “We haven’t lost any customers because of construction.”
Scott Healy ’97, director of the New Haven Town Green Special Services District, the local chamber of commerce, said downtown construction often creates new costumers for area businesses.
“A tremendous number of people are working on these sites, and they will visit local businesses,” Healy said. “They’re a captive audience, and they can bring their families and friends back in the future.”
But Caramanica said the University projects have also put a strain on her business.
“Parking is difficult, and there is a lot more traffic,” she said. “I saw a student get hit by a car on the corner just [Tuesday].”
She said the student got up immediately and walked away without visible injury.
Stephen Kovel, owner of Hull’s Art Supply & Framing on Chapel Street, said the added construction currently taking place on the Colony Inn down the street has compounded the problems created by the Yale construction. He pointed to a decrease in foot traffic past his store and a decrease in parking spaces for potential customers.
An employee at Thai Taste, Sunattsa Bub, had similar complaints. Echoing numerous other merchants in the area, she said the combination of the A&A building and Colony Inn construction has virtually eliminated all customer parking around the restaurant.
The Special Services District is working with police in the area to ensure that spots are available and parking rules are enforced, Healy said. But Kovel said he has been more bothered by the decrease in foot traffic along Chapel Street than by the impact on vehicle traffic.
“People seem to be avoiding the street to some extent because it is difficult to walk near the construction site,” he said.
Regardless of the difficulties posed by the construction, the majority of businesses said they have a cordial relationship with the construction workers. The business owners and workers said they recognize that the corner is not an ideal place for construction, and that for now they will just have to stick through the construction.
“Everyone needs to acknowledge that the expansion of the building is long overdue,” Healy said. “As soon as the architecture school reopens, it will be larger, and there will be more foot traffic than before.”
Construction is scheduled to be completed in August 2008.