Summerville business owners worry

posted by Caroline Balchunas - 

Summerville, S.C. (WCIV) — The heart of Summerville will get a makeover later this year.

Renovations will begin on Hutchinson Square later this month. Project renderings show a park outfitted with a fountain, a bandstand, enhanced greenery, walkways, lighting and parking.

But the $2 million, four-phase project is worrying business owners in the area.

From July to October, Little Main Street will likely be blocked off entirely so crews can repave and install drainage for the square related to the improvements.

Barbara Dunning, who runs Guerin's Pharmacy on the corner of Robinson and Little Main Street, said she's looking forward to the park improvements, but not the road closures that come with it.

She said she and many other business owners are bracing for a 30-40-percent loss during the four-month construction which will happen during peak tourism time.

"For a lot of the businesses down here, that's just way too long," Dunning said. "Kids want to ride down here on their bicycles, we can't have bicycles, chairs to sit at for the wine shop and people walking, the sidewalk is not wide enough. It's going to really decrease business."

Mayor Wiley Johnson said the project has been in the works for four years. He said planning around weather and festivals is tricky.

"I don’t think there's any way we can avoid inconveniencing the businesses but we'll try to minimize that," Johnson said. "You're restricted by temperatures when you're going to pave—you don’t want to get a large project like that going just prior to the (Flowertown) Festival. We had 200,000 to 300,000 people here."

Johnson said he understands the business owners' concerns. He held a public discussion Wednesday morning to address those issues. He believes the town can help cushion the blow.

"We do not want the businesses to be hurt," said Johnson. "We had some great ideas this morning to maybe have another parking area opened up with a walk through to Little Main, that is something we'll try to make happen."

Johnson said construction dates are still tentative and the town hasn't signed a contractor for the project yet.

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