A major streetside construction project in Solana Beach is impacting local shopkeepers, causing business for some to slow down significantly.
The project – which began in July 2012 and is the biggest of its kind in Solana Beach – includes a redesign of streets, sidewalks and parking areas along Pacific Coast Highway.
At this juncture, construction is entering its eighth month, and the project is estimated to be about 50 percent complete.
For many business owners in the construction zone, the project can’t be finished soon enough.
“People are avoiding this whole area right now,” one frustrated shopkeeper told NBC 7. “It’s been really terrible for business.”
“We’re struggling through it,” added another.
Though their business signs say “OPEN” and their business doors are wide open, for some shopkeepers, fewer and fewer customers are walking through those doors.
“We’ve definitely seen a fairly big drop in sales since the day they broke ground,” Travis Kaapke, store manager of the Surf Ride on Highway 101, told NBC 7.
Some managers and owners in the area said they’ve seen sales drop between 20 and 30 percent during this construction period.
For Charles Pinaby, manager of the Yummy Yogurt shop, that loss has been even higher.
“[We’re selling] 60 percent of what we usually do,” Pinaby told NBC 7.
Pre-construction, the yogurt flowed to customers. Now, the shop is empty, the yogurt business has dried up, and Pinaby said Yummy Yogurt has had to take out loans just to survive.
“We’ve had to let go two of our employees, so it’s just me, seven days a week. That’s how bad it’s become,” he lamented.
Some customers admit the construction has kept them from visiting their usual stops.
“It’s pretty obnoxious. I just go to other places now,” said Solana Beach resident Jeff Goldberg.
“I get coffee somewhere else now,” added another customer.
But, despite the slowdown in business, not all see the construction as a negative.
“It’s actually helped my business,” John Witherell of Shine Car Detail told NBC 7.
Witherell said traffic used to just fly by his shop but with the construction, traffic moves much slower, causing potential patrons to actually notice his business.
“[People are] stopping and looking around,” he added.
Meanwhile, the construction on Pacific Coast Highway has forced traffic into some nearby residential neighborhoods. That traffic has turned quiet neighborhoods into car city, especially during the busy weekday morning commute.
Solana Beach resident David Shulman told NBC 7 the traffic jams have gotten “pretty ridiculous” on his street, with some drivers going faster than usual because they’re frustrated and in a hurry.
But while many of those impacted by the ongoing construction are not enjoying the negative, short-term effects, most residents and shopkeepers agree that there are some great long-term benefits from the project to look forward to.
This includes improved parking, better sidewalks and a fresh, sparkling overall appearance.
“People just have to be patient and realize it will help the city immensely,” said Witherell.
“There is going to be some great landscape out front and a lot more parking,” added Kaapke.
Original estimates had the PCH construction project lasting for about 15 months. Now, there are hints that the project may be completed by this summer.
That early finish would be pretty great news for local businesses, so they can begin to get their boom back.