One merchant said heâ€™s lost more than $100,000 in sales. Another said she had to close her business. And a third has posted signs that express frustration with the pace of construction at Jackson Square.
At one time, there was hope that the $1 million parking lot renovation at Jackson Square would be complete by the Lavender Festival in mid-June. But that didnâ€™t happen. Now, the latest construction schedule estimates that it will be â€œsubstantially completeâ€ by September 15â€”in time for Taste of Anderson Countyâ€”but not finished until the end of October.
Officials have said the primary delay has been with the interactive fountain that will be installed in the center of Jackson Square. It still hasnâ€™t arrived, and officials have said it could take four weeks to install. On Monday, the contractor and her attorney said the fountain could arrive in Oak Ridge on Wednesday.
Even business owners who had an optimistic outlook earlier have lost their patience with the project, which is mostly funded with a state grant. Their primary frustrations: The work has taken much longer than expected, the schedule keeps getting extended, and there have been too many days when, they say, theyâ€™ve seen no signs of work. In the meantime, the parking lot in front of their stores was closed for months, and they believe that the construction fencing and orange barrels drove away some potential customers.
â€œWhy canâ€™t they finish this?â€ asked Jonathan Goldstein of The String Workshop.
â€œWeâ€™ve been nice long enough,â€ said Dean Russell, owner of Deanâ€™s Restaurant and Bakery.
â€œI think our frustration is how many days weâ€™ve seen nothing happening as our customer base declines,â€ said Steve Seivers, who has a law practice in the square, the cityâ€™s original town center.
On Monday, the Oak Ridge City Council joined the chorus of frustration. [Read more…]