Filed with the Superior Court of Contra Costa County in January, the suit claims the city’s recent renovations to Main Street and Oakley Plaza have caused the Buchholz’s business to decline. Access to Oakley Plaza has been reduced during construction, which began in August, and the Buchholzes claim that the dust, noise, fumes, traffic detours and restricted parking have kept new and returning customers away for the past six months.
“During this period of construction, the property and the claimants’ business has suffered a loss of an ‘open-for-business’ perception – potential customers driving by would form the assessment that the businesses in the shopping center were closed by the City and closed for the massive construction both inside the property boundaries and in the streets,” states the claim filed by Scott Jenny of Jenny & Jenny, LLP on behalf of the Buchholzes.
“The project has substantially impaired the claimants’ ability to operate their business, has caused the claimants to lose current and potential customers and has caused a decrease in patronage, income profit, business and goodwill of the business.”
According to City Manager Bryan Montgomery, the city has worked with the Buchholzes and other downtown business owners to help alert the community that the businesses are open during construction. The standalone Hook, Line & Sinker sign has been placed on the corner of Main Street and Vintage Parkway to lure drivers to the city’s only hunting and fishing supply store.
“We understand that these renovations and improvements have caused a commotion downtown, but we’ve been working with the business owners since the beginning to keep them in the loop about the project’s progress,” Montgomery said. “We’ve done what we can to minimize the impact, but once this is all done, we expect more foot traffic downtown. This will create volume in the long run.”
Recently, the pre-existing Vintage Parkway entrance to Oakley Plaza was closed while crews renovated the parking lot. A new entrance was opened on Vintage Parkway, but it is open only to northbound drivers. The Main Street entrance has been blocked since August. Montgomery said the new parking lot should be paved next week and the end result will include more parking spaces than the plaza originally provided.
Construction was originally estimated to be completed by November of 2012, but as crews excavated the parking lot, complications arose and the project’s progress slowed while crews attended to underground piping in the lot that the city was unaware existed.
“The delays are frustrating,” said one downtown business owner who wished to remain anonymous. “All of these improvements were supposed to be done by now. The city has been good about keeping the lines of communication open and answering our questions, but I just want this to be over. With the economy, business hasn’t been great in general, and with this construction, it doesn’t help. The sooner things get back to normal, the better.”
Oakley residents have also been coping with the effects of ongoing construction and road improvements, as commuters have been taking the Main Street realignment in stride. Traffic, managed by traffic lights, moves in only one direction at a time, which can cause delays in the morning and early evening. Montgomery expressed gratitude for the community’s patience and understanding while new sidewalks, angled parking and medians are installed. The northern portion of Main Street directly in front of Oakley Plaza is expected to be paved next week.
Work will then begin on the southern segment of Main Street nearest to City Hall. Angled parking and expanded sidewalks will be installed to create a more pedestrian-friendly downtown. Montgomery estimates those road improvements will be completed by late spring.
For Oakley resident Alyhanna Gibb, the construction has been a nuisance, but she’s hopeful that the end result will be worth it. “I can see why the local businesses owners are fed up with all this construction,” she said. “You’re never sure what parts are open or when there might be a delay, but I’m just glad something is finally happening here.
“I’ve lived in Oakley for a long time and this plaza has always been dead. It’s drab, but maybe these changes will make our downtown a place people actually want to come to.”
Ace Hardware is expected to relocate from Fourth Street and move into the plaza and serve as the anchor for the existing businesses, which include restaurants, retails and beauty services. Carpaccio and La Costa restaurants are now open. The old La Costa building will soon be demolished to make way for a new plaza area complete with a fountain and seating.
The Buchholzes claims could go to trial if a resolution is not reached informally.