Pine Street work affects businesses, residents

Construction crews have been working all summer to renovate Pine Street by adding new sidewalks and improved lighting. (Photo by ANDREW MATHER)

As the summer comes to a close, it marks the beginning of school for many young residents. For the business owners and residents of Pine Street, it marks the countdown for the end of months of construction.

Pine Street has been a work zone since UCM students left for summer break in the beginning of May. Since then, the street, and other parts of downtown Warrensburg, have been full of teams of construction workers, bulldozers and concrete mixers, all working to give downtown a makeover. While most citizens say the end result will be a good change for Pine Street, some businesses are just ready for it to be over.

Many business owners have seen a decline in sales since construction began. They attribute this mainly to the lack of sidewalks, which made it difficult to navigate Pine Street. Gloria Wells, owner of Central Logos, said she has definitely noticed a difference.

“It’s been bad all summer because a lot of the construction is right in front of us. It’s hit me pretty bad,” Wells said. “It’s mostly because of the sidewalks being closed, but I don’t think we’ve been hurt any worse than any other business near us.”

Stores weren’t the only businesses to be affected. Restaurants were hit hard as well.

“Early on in April, May and June it really did not affect us much,” Heroes owner Katie Scully said. “In July and August it definitely put a dent in our sales. It was kind of like a war zone out there.”

Unfortunately, the construction was just too much for some businesses to bear. Neptune’s, Sharkeez 2/The Loft and The Garage closed for the summer.

“As anyone in Warrensburg knows, Pine Street is being renovated and the construction has erased parking spots and mangled the sidealks (sic),” stated a post on the “Neptune On Pine” Facebook page. “In the end, this will be good for Warrensburg, and I am in support of the progress. However, it is impossible to run a business (specifically a bar in a college town during the summer) with this construction.”

Since Fitter’s, East Pine Pub, Heroes and Old Barney’s continued to be open for business, some of their neighbors took to Facebook to show their support, even if they couldn’t welcome their own customers.

Pine Street is full of bars, restaurants and other stores, but some people also call it home. The residents of the Opera House Lofts, located at the Washington end of Pine Street, have had to overcome quite a few obstacles with the construction. Literally.

“When they were working on the sidewalk in front of our entrance, they locked the front door, so we had to get in and out through the back door, which leads to an alley,” resident Traci Hawkins, 22, said. “And since they locked the door, we couldn’t get mail for a week. We weren’t told about that and I was expecting something from my parents.”

Loft residents weren’t the only ones using alley doorways. Several Pine Street businesses allowed customers to use their back doors as a convenient alternative to the construction zone blocking their front doors. However, Scully found a positive outcome for this particular problem.

“We opened up the back door so guests could get in because there was no parking in front but there was parking in back,” Scully said. “We painted and cleaned up the back of building and added some flowers. We also started a back door carryout service. When people order food to go, we take it right to their car to make it easier. We had quite a few customers use it and it’s something we’re going to continue to do.”

Hawkins, a student at UCM, said residents were informed of construction, but not always consistently.

“When they were working on our end of the street, they would sometimes tell us when they would shut off the water,” Hawkins said. Sometimes they would leave a note, but there were times when they didn’t tell us and we just wouldn’t have water.”

While Hawkins had a hard time getting information, some businesses were kept informed throughout the whole process. Scully went to weekly update meetings and received an email every week from Warrensburg Main Street, which partnered with the city of Warrensburg to complete the renovations.

Parking has been another issue that has affected not only Hawkins and her roommates, but Pine Street employees and patrons as well. With occasional road closures and sidewalk construction, most days parking on the street wasn’t an option. And to get to their destination, customers and residents had to walk in the middle of the street when sidewalks were being torn up and re-poured.

Even with intermittent Internet, loud construction, and the occasional fire alarms going off for 30 minutes, the construction hasn’t deterred Hawkins from continuing to live in the lofts.

“It’s not always pleasant when they’re right outside our window,” Hawkins said. “But it will be nice when they get it finished. I’m glad they’re redoing it. It’s just unfortunate that it’s where I’ve been living.”

Scully agreed that she’s glad the construction is behind them, but it was worthwhile for the result.

“I think it was a wonderfully beneficial project,” Scully said. “It all looks aesthetically better and much more welcoming. The beautification will definitely benefit the businesses downtown.”

Cars line the edges of the newly renovated Pine Street, where new light poles and sidewalks can be seen. (Photo by ANDREW MATHER)

Now that summer is over, the construction is nearly finished. Visitors can enjoy newly paved sidewalks with brick pavers, stone planters throughout the street, new street lights, and the street has been repaved. The walkway and stairs up to the Culton Street parking lot has also been redone and has better lighting. The street and sidewalks now match those on Holden Street to unify the downtown area. Among the beautification that has been done, a water main and sewer line, which were both about 100 years old, were replaced, coal chutes were filled, and electric lines were removed and put underground.

There are still a few more things to be done, such as recoating the walkway alley and adding plants to the stone planters that are already in place. Artwork will also be installed in the 10-foot diameter etched circle on the sidewalk, and the public is welcome to help.

The city is asking for submissions of designs for the future artwork. Any artist, professional or non-professional, may enter the competition. Submissions are due online Aug. 19 at www.callforentry.org and mailed submissions are due by 5 p.m. Aug. 18 at the Warrensburg Arts Commission, 102-A South Holden. There is a $20 application fee.

Although there are a few finishing touches left, West Pine Street is already looking like its former self, as parking spots are always taken and tables at popular restaurants are full. The next phase is to keep West Pine Street looking as nice as it does now.

“Main Street is really trying to keep the street looking good,” Scully said. “It wants to work with businesses and students to take care of the new planters and sidewalks so all this hard work isn’t ruined.”