Business Owners Rejoice at Reopening of Washington Ave. | St. Louis Public Radio

Business Owners Rejoice at Reopening of Washington Ave.

St. Louis, MO – The sound of cars this week will be music to the ears of business owners on a small stretch of Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis.

The three blocks from Tucker to 15th Street have been closed for most of the year while crews rebuilt the road and sidewalks. The stretch will re-open to cars starting tomorrow.

City leaders have promised a rejuvenated economy from the project, but businesses in the interim have seen fewer customers.

Shirley Alper owns the Marte Shoe Store that has been at Washington and 14th for more than 30 years. She says the bad economy is to blame for smaller sales, but adds construction has contributed...

"Some people think we're closed," says Alper. "When they said they're closed on Washington Avenue I guess they thought we're closed. But we're gonna hang in here."

Tom Luckey, who owns the Studio Caf on Washington, says the construction has decreased his lunchtime business by about 50%. "It's been hard for people to find me to get access to the area because the street's been dug up," says Luckey. "It's been like a desert out here with everything torn up with just plain dirt. And it was hard for people to walk across and have access to it."

Luckey opened the caf about six years ago. He says he's been waiting ever since for city leaders' promises of a rejuvenated economy in the area to manifest. Developers say the facelift will attract new business and people.

Alper says she hopes people will move into the new lofts and condos that are being built nearby, so the area will have more foot traffic.

The block from 14th to 15th Street has been open for about a week.

Both owners have nothing but praise for the construction crews who have worked for months on the project. But Luckey says he was upset with the delay in the construction. ""What disturbs me the most is that the money has been appropriated for five years.

"It sat on some bureaucrat's desk or something and didn't get moved along quick enough for me. It's a shame that it took five years for this project to get done and completed. It's shameful that the city couldn't get this done quicker."

The block from 14th to 15th Street opened about a week ago.