Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Businesses Struggle with Forbes Ave. Construction Merchants Complain Multiple Projects Reducing Foot Traffic

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Businesses Struggle with Forbes Ave. Construction Merchants Complain Multiple Projects Reducing Foot Traffic

Article excerpt

Some have lost power, telephone service or both. One had water flood his basement. And as they struggle to attract customers, merchants are still facing at least several more months of construction at their doorsteps on Forbes Avenue, Downtown.

Some of the affected business owners wonder whether their shops will survive.

"We're trying to hang in there but it's getting harder and harder," said John Vazquez, president of You're in Steeler Country, a local sports apparel retailer whose walls and racks are crammed with Pirates, Steelers and Penguins T-shirts, hats and tank tops.

His business and a handful of others on the south side of Forbes between Smithfield and Wood streets have reported that sales have plummeted since the city shut down the stretch last November for a massive reconstruction that includes new pavement, curbs, sidewalks, utilities and street lights.

The work has forced pedestrians, particularly those walking from Smithfield to Wood, to zigzag their way through a dusty and noisy construction zone to reach the establishments, which include a hat store, two restaurants and a hair salon.

"It's an eyesore. It's like a war zone trying to walk through it," said Angel Oliverio, manager of Penn Avenue Fish Company, who added that his weeknight dining business has fallen as a result of the construction.

Making matters worse, merchants have lost the parking spaces outside of their businesses that many customers used to make a quick stop to drop off or pick up shoes or to buy a hat.

"I'm struggling for business. It's too slow. Every customer that comes here complains," said Kevin Hu, owner of The Headgear at 312 Forbes.

When the city launched the project last fall, it stated the street would be closed for about eight months. But it now says that Forbes won't reopen until the end of the year.

Mr. Vazquez is not sure how much more he can take. He said he has lost at least half of his business. "It's kind of rough," he said.

Gabriel Fontana, owner of Gabriel Shoe Repair at 304 Forbes, said his business has dropped about 30 percent since the project started.

"It's disgusting, really. People complain that they can't park for a couple of minutes to drop off shoes," he said from behind the counter of his shop, filled with the aroma of shoe polish. …

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