New Bedford explores relief for construction-weary businesses

By Brian Boyd
Source: The Standard Times
NEW BEDFORD — Worried that road construction projects were squeezing small businesses, the City Council asked city officials to look into ways they can provide relief for merchants hurt by detours and other disruptions.
The council voted Thursday night to request Mayor Jon Mitchell, the city’s Department of Public Infrastructure and the New Bedford Economic Development Council to explore options — whether loans, grants or tax relief — to help businesses in the near North End, off Route 18 in the downtown, and on Popes Island that have been harmed by various construction projects.
Speaking in favor of the request, Councilor David Alves focused in particular on work at the intersection of Route 18 and Coggeshall Street and the impact on businesses in the near North End.
“We have basically closed down the central artery to the commercial district,” Alves said.
Construction and related detours at the intersection started more than a month ago. The project was estimated to take three to six weeks at the time, but Alves said he was told construction could last another six or eight weeks. He said small businesses do most of the hiring in the city.
The work at the intersection is part of a $5 million project. The plan is to make improvements to a stretch of Acushnet Avenue from Coggeshall Street to Nash Road, creating a destination “international marketplace” out of that portion of the avenue.
Antonios Erotokritakis, who owns The Golden Greek Restaurant with his wife Mary, said in an interview earlier in the day that the construction was hurting their business.
A group of loyal customers is making the effort to eat at the restaurant, located on Acushnet Avenue near the intersection with Coggeshall Street, despite the disruption, Erotokritakis said. But other customers have told him they will wait until construction is done before they return, he said.
“It has a big effect on business,” he said.
Erotokritakis said he doesn’t want to close his restaurant until the work is completed, because of the loyal customers who are still coming and his employees.
Some retailers have seen their business drop by 35 percent to 45 percent in recent months, according to city councilors.
Alves said options may include loans through the economic development council or property tax relief.
Councilor Bruce Duarte Jr. said he wants the city to see whether the state or federal government could provide some assistance to businesses.
“They have taken a hit,” Duarte said.
Erotokritakis said earlier he has heard of different suggestions for relief, including tax relief.
“I never look for handouts,” he added. “We’ll try to make it through right now. We will somehow.”
May 25, 2012 12:00 AM
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