Chatter Class: Urban construction can mean headaches for business

Monday, April 21, 2008 at 2:10am

Jackhammers. Back hoes. Construction workers. Dump trucks. Gravel. Dust.

In the suburbs, construction is a mild nuisance. In an urban area, it can be down right disruptive, particularly so if the neighbors of the construction don’t feel like they are getting any relief. And, the problems will continue to arise as more developers dig into the tight urban spots.

Mambu and Da Vinci’s Gourmet Pizza are among the latest to learn about those challenges.

Both sit on Hayes Street behind the former office building now being converted into Hutton Hotel, which fronts West End Avenue.

Next year, that hotel could be a boon for the businesses. But in the meantime, the construction work has put a dent into the dining revenues.

“My business is practically gone at lunch,” said Anita Hartel, one of the Mambu owners.

Hartel said business is down 50 percent and no one is using the patio during lunch in the prime part of the season.

Da Vinci’s owners say their business was off 30 percent last month and patio business has vanished. In fact, they think they could lose up to $100,000 this year, putting survival in question.

Others at different times and different places have experienced the same headaches urban construction cause.

Building the downtown library drew complaints. Straightening Church Street drew complaints from downtown residents because of nighttime construction to avoid snarling traffic and creating other problems during the day.

For whichever entity is doing the construction, they are basically in a no-win situation from the get go.

When the Adelicia was under construction across from South Street Restaurant, the Nashville-based Corner Realty Partners worked with that eatery, Bound’ry and others to keep the disruption at a minimum during lunch. The challenge there was dealing with requests for concessions that had merit. But the approach was to make sure the construction crew was following the city’s rules and minimize inconvenience when possible.

Metro Public Works tries to be proactive in establishing meetings between the parties affected and the effecting parties. Still, there’s a fine line between minimizing the construction’s impact and making sure the work gets done on time and within budget.

With the Hayes Street merchants, there have been meetings and will be more between the developer, the city and the businesses. There have been conditions presented on various aspects of construction.

For instance, one proposed arrangement was no jackhammer work during lunch. That one hasn’t been followed.

Other arrangements included signage to let people know the restaurants were there and apparently that hasn’t happened either.

Metro Public Works has the challenge of trying to hold the construction company — in Hutton Hotel’s case, Bell & Associates Construction — to the arrangements. A guy would have to be a sentry at the site to make sure, and the city just doesn’t have the manpower for that.

The construction company just wants to get the work done. It is on a timetable that may have a financial penalty if not met.

Hutton Hotel’s developer, Philadelphia-based Amerimar Enterprises doesn’t have someone on the ground yet representing the hotel. Perhaps when the general manager moves here, which is imminent, some of the issues will go away.

In the mean time, the restaurants continue to do business just less of it during the construction.

Presumably, the revenues made after the hotel opens will more than make up for what was lost. They just have to survive that long.

Filed under: City Business
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By: adamzero on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I've been eating at Mambu more than usual. Not just because the food is great, but in appreciation of Anita and her great crew. I hope others will keep this in mind. I'm not completely sure how Metro manages to shut down main arteries like 17th Ave a block away from the worksite. At times it seems like the Metro traffic police are working for the developers more than the public. Do the developers have Metro Police in their back pocket?

By: ohppc on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Da Vinci’s patio was a favorite place to eat lunch but now with the construction noise and dust, why bother. I don't want to sit our, I have started going elsewhere and maybe I'll come back after the construction is finished....

By: mstacey8078 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It's a shame that urban growth is negatively affecting hometown businesses like this. I will continue to eat at DaVinci's and Mambu regardless of the noise, dust, and inconvenience of construction cones and traffic, and the City of Nashville should desire to maintain restaurants that have a basis in this town and, thus, should do whatever it takes to protect the clientele of such places of business.

By: PillowTalk4 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

You know, sometimes I wonder if people would just prefer for there not to be any new development or growth in and around Nashville. Of course there are going to be headaches when a developer begins construction of a new building, renovates another, or expands another. If you operate a business in an urban area this is part of life and you have to know this is bound to happen at some time or another. I'm sure if either of those restaurants wnated to expand they too would create a headache for their neighbors. The goal is to work around the headaches to minimize loss of business. So, you may have to close your patio or sidewalk dinning for a few months, that's not unusual in cities that are more urban than Nashville. There's a restaurant in DC that has sidewalk dinning at lunch time. There's a new condo building being constructed about two doors down from this restaurant. To say the least the noise from the construction site distracts from eating outside. But people know its a temporary situation, so they dine inside while the construction is going on. The restaurants offer more lunch specials to attract more customers as well.Must Nashvillians complain about EVERYTHING when it comes to growth. Is my hometown becoming a city a constant whiners? With growth & development comes headaches. Those headaches are temporary. Deal with it people. Don't stop supporting a buisness just because it's in a construction zone. That makes no sense and only shows the lack of support you have for local businesses.

By: nashbeck on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Thank you pillowtalk4. Couldn't agree with you more. Yes it's a pain right now for the restaurant owners, but I'd like to see their opinion when their business is booming because of all the hotel residents eating in their restaurants. Development is good for Nashville. I hope it keeps steaming ahead.