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‘What can be done?’ Rochester businesses continue to struggle with downtown construction

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Downtown Rochester construction on Broadway Avenue

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) - The combination of construction projects mixed with the effects of the pandemic have forced many downtown Rochester shops to close their doors.

Currently, there are two separate major projects being done. An improvement to the sewer system should be done in the next few weeks. The Heart of the City project at Peace Plaza could take until next summer to finish.

"I think it was a good idea to get that done now on Peace Plaza during the pandemic," said Rochester mayor Kim Norton. "Post-pandemic we're not going to have businesses be hurt again and again."

However, the construction has taken away parking spots for restaurants like City Market.

"Well you know, we were already down," said Kathleen Schau, co-manager at City Market.

Workers at the restaurant now feel as if they have been kicked. Customers are having a hard time even finding the door.

"I'm like, 'Just stay where you are and I'll bring the food to you," said Schau about people not being able to find them.

The decline of takeout orders has been offset by one customer base.

"Mayo has brought back some people so we're getting deliveries," Schau said. "That's a big part of our business."

Other businesses have had to rely on online sales and repeat buyers.

"They complain about how hard it was to get here but there happy once they get here," said Joan Blackley-McCoy, owner of Tangerine.

While the sewer project will be done in a few weeks, it's the Peace Plaza work that concerns Tangerine's owner the most.

"We're scared to death of winter because in winter people don't want to walk to the stores," she said.

Signs have helped some customers find the stores that are open, but they are not overcoming the impact of the road work and detours.

"It's affected all of us. The Loop, the closings and stuff. It's scary," Schau said.

While these projects have been talked about for a long time, the mayor believes things could have been done a little differently next time.

"Each department talk to each other a little better about when their project is and coordinate it. In hindsight, that would have been nice to do," Norton said. "That's outside of my control and something we really need to better as a city moving ahead."

The mayor says the city will try to help businesses with funds and breaks when it comes to licensing fees, but says that even shops outside of the downtown area are suffering.

For now, store owners are hoping their customers are willing and able to navigate the maze downtown.

Alex Tejada

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