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Rocky Road

January 2, 2008, 12:00 am
Guadalupe merchants balk at messy holiday construction.

The road is completely chewed up. Orange barrels offer silent warnings to would-be motorists. And blinking signage proclaims road construction up ahead- yet there is not a single construction worker in sight.***image1***

That's been the mysterious scene on Guadalupe Street, between Paseo de Peralta and East Alameda Street, since shortly after Dec. 3, when work crews blasted away the old asphalt and hooded parking meters, blocking choice parking spaces just as the Christmas retail season kicked into high gear in the busy commercial district.

According to mystified and aggravated local merchants contacted by SFR, not much has happened since.

"Why start the construction the first week of December and then do nothing after that?" That's one of many unanswered questions an exasperated Max Renteria, the apron-wearing proprietor of Max's Late Nite Café just off Guadalupe on Montezuma Avenue, asks from behind the counter of her empty coffee joint.

Echoing approximately a dozen other business owners along the busy stretch of Guadalupe, Renteria says December sales have taken a hit.

And then, on Dec. 21, Renteria says a loud street sweeper made runs in both directions on Guadalupe, pushing gravel and dirt toward the middle of the road, but pushing plenty more into the air.

"Since then, it's been a dirty, filthy mess," she says.

"If I'm a nice lady with $500 shoes, I'm not going to walk on that," she adds, noting that she has to mop her café's floor at least twice a day as a result of the road conditions.

Jim Webb, owner of Le Bon Voyage, a luggage shop just off Guadalupe, also focuses on the slop tracked in from the ripped-up road.

But first he clarifies the language.

"We don't have a street," he says, "we have a dirt road." Then he and his wife, Jodie, show off the $70 "little green machine" steam cleaner they say they were forced to buy to keep up.

***image2***Renteria, a recent transplant from San Francisco, Calif., who only opened the café in November, says she called the mayor's office and, while staffers were "super responsive" getting back to her the following day, the city's plans haven't been communicated to local businesses.

Laura Banish, the City of Santa Fe's public information officer, tells SFR that a public meeting was held on June 26, but acknowledges that no one attended.

According to Banish, the project's purpose is to make the area more pedestrian-friendly and to create better access to the Railyard and nearby businesses. Specific improvements include new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps, crosswalks, barrier medians and curb improvements. The construction is part of the Railyard Master Plan and the city aims to complete all of it by April.

As for the holiday timing of the project, Banish says there's never a good time for a project like this one but that the city "made a conscious effort to begin the least invasive part of construction…prior to the winter holidays, leaving the higher impact work for after Christmas."

Simon Brackley, president and CEO of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, suggests the city should have waited until January.

"I'm disappointed that the city would do this during the Christmas/ New Year's break, which is traditionally a busy time for retail," he says. Brackley notes that retail businesses typically generate upwards of 20 percent of their revenue during the holiday season.

City Councilor Karen Heldmeyer, whose district includes the east side of Guadalupe, says she relayed constituent concerns in mid-December to city Public Works staff. She adds that since the Railyard was designated as a blighted area "some city staff have interpreted that as whatever someone wants to do in the Railyard area, they should be able to do it and do it quickly."

Like Brackley, Heldmeyer thinks the city could have delayed this project by a few weeks in an effort to minimize the harm to local businesses.

Zia Diner owner Beth Draiscol says her Guadalupe restaurant's holiday business has definitely been harmed, but her expectations of the city are fairly low.

"We all roll our eyes and say, 'There they go again,'" she says over the din of a recent lunch crowd. "It's almost like it's not a surprise anymore."


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