By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week the City of Chelsea approved the closure of Jackson street along the front of the Mack Building Project from Tues. May 29 until Fri. July 13. as the development and renovation of the Mack Building continues.
The closure of Jackson street has been a topic of discussion, particularly for local business owners in the area. On May 21, Joe Ziolkowski, the project developer, Mayor Melissa Johnson, City Manager John Hanifan, and Greg Raye and H.K. Leonard, owners of Chelsea Farmers Supply, met to discuss the closure of Jackson street.
“We thought it would be a good idea to meet with Mr. Raye, Mrs. Leonard, and Mr. Ziolkowski to talk through the overall plan to see what we could possibly do to lessen the impact of the closure,” said Hanifan. “The good news, the outcome is that we were able to talk to the developer about pushing the closure past the busy Memorial Day weekend, it’s a busy weekend for Farmers supply. We talked about the signage plan as well as making sure that Farmers Supply has a flyer with a map in for their customers for now until the closure to let folks know ‘hey you can still get to us from two different locations.’”
Raye had spoken at a prior city council meeting voicing his concerns, and Hanifan told The Sun Times that council wanted to be sensitive to that concern.
The public comment period during the May 21 city council meeting was filled with local residents and business owners wanting to speak about the closure. Support for the project wasn’t an issue, everyone agreed that the long-term benefits of this project would positively impact downtown and the City of Chelsea.
“I think what was encouraging, that all of the speakers recognized, is that this is a great project and it’s going to be a long-term benefit to the downtown and to the City,” said Hanifan. “I think one of the speakers made a great point that we can use this event as additional awareness for the depot, the museum, and Chelsea Farmers supply to maybe bring some exposure that may not have been there.”
Questions were raised, however, about how to make sure everything possible was being done to try and prevent the closure; from trying to do the construction at night to keep the road open during the day, to working on the weekends.
Ziolkowski said the budget for the project was already tight and nighttime work meant time and a half wages. Working weekends hadn’t been looked at, but that could be an option to lessen closures if unforeseen problems arise.
The city is in agreement that a publicity campaign from the city that included detour signs around the downtown area, multi-media advertisements, and social media chatter could minimize the negative impact of the street closures.
Raye spoke during public comment about how deeply the constriction would affect Chelsea Farmers Supply. He thanked the council for listening and Joe for taking on the project, but asked council to “show mercy and be reactive to the fact that closing Jackson street will cost dearly in terms of revenue.”
Raye went on to explain that although it’s a multi-faceted store, a vast majority of their business takes place during the spring planting season. A window of opportunity that was open for six weeks according to Raye, from the middle of May to the end of June. Raye told council that they usually made enough sales to make it through the rest of the year during this six-week window.
While thanking the city for the publicity campaign to make customers aware that they are still open during the construction, Raye talked about knowing retail customers and their finicky habits. He went on to say he expected to lose thousands of dollars due to the closure being at the busiest time of the year.
Raye supports the project and the closings but asked for a delay, ideally for 3-4 weeks, that would help offset the financial loss.
Ziolkowski wanted to make it clear that he was supportive of the shop and understood the concerns of local businesses and business owners. He added, however, that all the work that needed to be done was weather sensitive beginning in June, with about four months until the weather begins to change and make some aspects of the construction more difficult.
Ziolkwoski said it was already a tight schedule, but condensed the schedule by a week in agreement that the traffic of Memorial Day weekend is important.
Eleven contractors are scheduled to complete different aspects of the project. Fencing around the project is expected to be installed May 29 and the road will be closed until completion of the framing of the building with a scheduled reopening on July 19.