Some shops along Main Street are concerned renovations to downtown sidewalks and parking spots will be detrimental for business.
The streetscape project, which will begin in January and is expected to last into September, will widen sidewalks from 16 feet to 20 feet, and all parking spots will require drivers to reverse into them.
The project will span from Washington  Street and West Main Street to D Street NE and East Main Street and just past Caddo Street between Main Street and Broadway Street. The project will continue along Caddo Street up to 2nd Avenue.
Assistant City Manager Kevin Boatright has asked business owners to sign temporary construction easements, which will allow construction workers to work on an owner’s property.
But the risk of making walking downtown more difficult for pedestrians and potential customers has businesses bracing for impact.
“We’ve got enough problems parking forward, and I haven’t heard of anybody who thinks they’re going to like it,” said Antiques Etc. employee Peggy Young. “And I don’t see why we need a wider sidewalk. It seems like the sidewalk is wide enough as it is.”
Young, who has worked at Antiques Etc. for 23 years, said the shop relies heavily on tourists passing through as well as people simply walking down the sidewalk. The prospect of off-and-on construction making downtown more difficult to navigate worries her and fellow staff.
Fellow employee Tim Chamberlain doesn’t recall construction this heavy, but only minor updates that didn’t impact business.
The risk of temporary easements blocking the one entrance into Antiques Etc. doesn’t bode well with Chamberlain.
“Really, it’s still up in the air, and it depends on how long all of this is going to take, but I do know we only have one way for people to get into the shop,” Chamberlain said.
Stranger Than Fiction Books Plus owner Irene Logue, whose store is located less than a block away, says she’s one of the lucky ones, having a backdoor entrance and alternate parking available for customers. But even her space is limited; Logue can’t offer parking for several patrons simultaneously.
While Logue was open to the possible safety benefits and more from reverse parking, she also said having to explain the new parking situation to customers could prove difficult.
“I’ve heard from people who live in other towns that it works pretty well, but I don’t know,” Logue said. “Customers are going, ‘I’m going to have to do what?’ We’ll just have to wait and see on that.”
Most foot traffic for the book store comes from drivers exiting off area highways, according to Logue, and she’s concerned outsiders who encounter the parking situation may choose to keep on going.
Operating downtown comes with its own challenges already, Logue said, and construction that lasts longer than expected might amplify them.
“It’s not easy for us down here,” Logue said. “We hope we’ll get a lot of support from the community and people will bear with us.”