Stimson Avenue Road Work Causes Significant Disruptions For Some Businesses< < Back to
ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Half of Stimson Avenue in Athens has been closed for months due to construction, and some businesses along the street are struggling.
Business owners say reduced traffic flow and disruptions from the construction work have created huge costs and drastically reduced revenue. Kevin and Carrie Tidd, owners of The Farmacy, a natural foods market, have seen their business fall by half since March.
“I hate to think of the worst,” said Kevin Tidd, “but it is getting really hard to hold on, you know, to maintain. … At some point, there’s going to be layoffs, there’s going to be devastating things that you can’t control.”
The project itself, which costs about $7 million, has long been overdue. Stimson Avenue had its last major overhaul in the late ’60s and is costly to maintain in its current form. It also lacks access for people with disabilities, which the new work will address.
None of that is currently helping The Farmacy, however, whose 50-year run in Athens may now be in jeopardy as potential shoppers go elsewhere with half of Stimson closed to traffic. Nor is traffic flow the only issue that has cropped up recently: Jamie Sparhawk of the Best of Athens Rental Co. claims that vibrations from the work have created cracks in tenants’ walls and caused lights to fall from the ceiling.
Even more shocking are the plumbing problems.
“The water has literally fountained out of the toilet from whatever they’re doing,” Sparhawk said. “Like, sewage coming out of the toilet. We were just talking—what if one of us had been sitting on the toilet when that happened?”
She claims the issue has affected both her office and some of the rental units. In the latter case, the rental company paid to replace the tenants’ soiled towels. The cracks and falling lights have added to the financial burden, and Sparhawk said they may have to power wash the fronts of some properties, which are now coated with dust from the construction.
The company has sent an invoice to the city of Athens charging for the damages. The city has yet to make a determination about the claim.
Mayor Steve Patterson has met once with Stimson business owners since construction began. Following that meeting, the city and contractor made changes to signage and equipment storage, and began sending out weekly updates on what to expect from the construction. Significant problems remain, however. According to the Tidds, the water at The Farmacy has shut off unexpectedly at least six times in recent months, putting their employees (who regularly handle food products) in a difficult position.
Trucco Construction Co. is the contractor undertaking most of the road work. The company’s project manager, Tim Maiden, is unable to say whether the water shutoffs are related to the renovations. To his knowledge, there has only been one water break on Trucco’s watch, and it happened in early June.
Kevin Tidd believes the city should be doing more to support businesses that are struggling. “I just really don’t know that this was the best time for something like this,” he said. “When COVID came along, everything just went crazy. We just assumed maybe (the project) would be pushed off or delayed. We were just getting our feet back underneath us after that and just lost all the momentum we had gained.”
Because the project is partly grant funded, the timing was out of the city’s hands, Patterson explained. He added that the changes, when complete, will prove worthwhile.
“Certainly, it concerns me with what’s going on on Stimson Avenue right now,” he said. “But I believe that once the street is completely open again, it’ll have the same flow, if not more, in terms of traffic.”
Ric Wasserman, co-owner of Bella Vino, a wine and craft beer shop, echoed the mayor’s optimism. “We do feel it’s short-term pain for long-term gain,” he said. “When that project is done, we’re going to have the nicest thoroughfare in town.” Bella Vino has reduced its stock since the work began, but Wasserman said the business benefits from a loyal customer base who continue to shop at the store.
Sandy Fan, owner of the restaurant China Fortune, said she has seen her customers drop off due to construction. “So far, we can handle that,” she said. “Every problem, we can do it, we can handle it.” But, she added, it is “inconvenient, yes.”
Most business owners agree that the project, when complete, will be a big improvement. But that’s cold comfort to those who are struggling now.
“We’re trying to help each other out,” said Kevin Tidd, “but this is … it’s really starting to look glum.”