Thursday June 19, 2003

Construction Season: Now Some Fulton Business Owners not Happy About it

Officials say Canalview Mall construction work will help businesses in the long run, make place safer, more appealing.
By Melissa Stefanec

    The decision by the City of Fulton to reconstruct the parking lot for the Canalview Mall, has left some business owners in the area worried about the summer ahead.

    Parking is almost non-existent at the mall, along state Route 104 in the heart of the city. Without adequate parking, business owners say, customers will find other places to shop. The construction work began Tuesday June 10 and is expected to last about eight weeks.

    Dr. Mark S. Wegerski, a chiropractor who owns a business that is located in the mall, said he?s feeling the pinch.

    ?I definitely expect to lose current clientele and especially new patients,? said Wegerski.

    He worries that many of his patients with physical disabilities or difficulties will find the construction and lack of parking hard to overcome, and may look for a more convenient office to access.

    Wegerski is unhappy with the somewhat spontaneous construction and with the expected lack of business. He said he had already received patient complaints.?I don?t think I will receive any compensation from the city,? he said.

    Grandma?s Attic, a recent addition to the Canalview Mall complex, had a more positive approach to the construction. Nellie Munger, mother of Grandma?s Attic owner David Munger, said she was pleased with the city?s reaction to the construction. ?The city has helped us as much as they can,? said Munger. ?They gave us plans and the parking lot will be absolutely gorgeous when it is through. We just have to get through the next two months. The Mungers were even invited by the city to post a table for their antiques and collectibles at the Fulton City Farmer?s Market. ?They have been more than fair,? Munger said.

    However, Howard Rose, owner of Letters, Signs, & Specialties, is not as optimistic. He heard about the lot construction through the grapevine and said he received no notification of town meetings that would include construction plans and concerns. ?None of the city officials really had a conversation with any of us down here,? said Rose. ?To start when they did was spontaneous.?

    He feels that there could have been some reparations included in the construction plans for the businesses. ?I could use cable down here. Maybe the city could have put in cables to reach my business to run a service like Road Runner,? Rose said. ?The construction has pretty much shut me down for the summer. I will have to my business from my two other locations.? Rose said it would be near impossible to move large signs and other supplies necessary to his business through the one front entrance. He also said it would be even more difficult to move supplies to and from random parking spaces around the store. ?My customers have come to rely on convenience, businesses that rely on this are the ones hurt by construction like this. We are going to lose customers,? said Rose.

    However it was a mall property business owner that played the role in the project. Doug Castor, owner of multiple properties in the downtown area and Canalview Mall, brought forward the idea for the construction for the city-owned lot. He also searched for the lowest bidding designers and engineers for the project. The city accepted his proposals and will help to fund the project through local and state revenue.

    ?The only work done on the lot since 1961 has been patching,? Castor said. He also recognized the needs and concerns of the business owners. ?Everyone?s needs and impediments caused by this project are different. Business owners addressing specific problems are invited to take issues to the specific project entity or the city,? said Castor. Mayor Michael Stafford said the parking lot would be redesigned to make a safer entrance off 481. The project will include new perimeter lighting, which will make snow removal significantly easier. The lot will also have new drainage systems, landscaping, and sidewalks. The revamp of the lot comes as a continuum to work done on East 1st and Cayuga streets in the late 1990s.

    Although he said that there is no compensation planned for business owners, he also hopes that owners will present the city with any plan ideas.

    ?We are happy to work with property owners down there,? Stafford said.