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  • Jordan D. Smith

Downtown Businesses Face Challenges from Construction

It’s never easy running a small business.  You’ve got ordering, payroll, employee scheduling, utility bills, capital improvement costs, insurance, the list goes on and on.  It gets harder though when your customers can’t get to your door though and delivery vehicles can’t get there either.  Portland businesses on Kent St. have gotten creative and had to adapt to keep the doors open as the downtown is under construction.

For some, that means changing hours.  Rivers Edge Grill recently adjusted their hours; not opening until 11am on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and only serving breakfast Friday through Sundays.  The eatery tried maintaining regular hours for the first month of the construction project but it became apparent that regular breakfast customers were staying away as a result of the lack of parking in front of the restaurant.  “We gave it a shot these last four weeks but with the amount of construction outside our front door,” says owner Denny Cunningham, “it just makes it easier to hold off on the early hours in which we cater mainly to retirees.

For others it has required last minute changes to schedules.  As water main construction and hook up to individual properties proceeded, Emma Jandernoa, the director of the Hubbardston Irish Dance Troupe found the front door of her studio unreachable and had to cancel classes at a moment’s notice earlier this month.  According to Jandernoa, the building the dance studio is in does not have a rear entrance as some properties do.  It is now reopened as construction has moved on from that phase once water supply lines were installed.  CL Trucking, which is the company running the project, moved on to work on sanitary sewer lines in the 200 block of Kent Street this past week.

For some though the construction is not a hindrance but a boon.  On a recent sunny afternoon, the children at Sunny Bunch Christian Childcare paused running around Scout Park to watch the construction equipment lumber by their normally quiet play area.  The chance to see these “diggers” up close on an ongoing basis is certainly exciting for these downtowners.

Opera Block Properties owner Tim Fuller, is making the most of the construction.  Work on the front of his properties had been postponed to this summer specifically so that demolition and restoration of the facades on several of the properties he owns will be less of a disruption than it would be otherwise. Fuller says that the construction crew from CL Trucking has been incredibly accommodating and communicative.  He says they have even dropped what they were doing on occasion to help carry things as needed to help his crew working on renovations and have worked around making it possible for delivery vehicles to get to his properties. 

In particular a large shipment of cinder blocks and mortar were delivered for work on foundation and basement repairs which were brought in by truck through the construction zone and piled on the sidewalk.  That work also included demolition and hauling out large amounts of broken concrete from the basement of his buildings by hand.  Fuller has collaborated with CL Trucking to haul away the broken cement from his demolition work as they do concrete from the road work.  According to Fuller, that old concrete is all crushed up for use as aggregate in asphalt that could even be used in the repaving of Kent Street, though there is no way to track the exact dump truck load of old concrete of course. Simply the thought of the project coming full circle is a nice one though, and one that can’t come soon enough for eager downtown entrepreneurs.

For regular information on the progress of the project you can follow the City of Portland, Michigan on Facebook where they are posting weekly updates.     


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