Retailers in the Delmar Loop are hoping for a little holiday cheer beginning this Thanksgiving, and Loop Trolley wunderkind Joe Edwards is planning to deliver it.
“They just need to stop come Black Friday,” said Jeff Weintrop, co-owner of The Silver Lady, 6364 Delmar Blvd. “There should not be a construction truck down here after Thanksgiving.”
“I think it will happen for sure,” said Joe Edwards, a Loop businessman and chairman of the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District. “I am very, very confident that we will have it done along that stretch by Thanksgiving.”
Edwards and Weintrop were both referring to trolley track installation on Delmar Boulevard in the Loop. Edwards said he has heard from merchants who want the disruptions created by trenching and tracking activities, which began in June, to be largely a memory by the start of the holiday shopping season. The season traditionally kicks off on the Friday after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Weintrop is one of a group of merchants who said that the track installation has hurt their business. Others said they have seen little effect.
“It has definitely negatively impacted our business,” Weintrop said. “It is lack of parking. It is construction. It is confusion about traffic lanes. We’ve had some complaints, and our numbers are way down.”
On the other hand, Eleanor Ruder, who owns the Componere Gallery at 6509 Delmar, said her revenues for the January through August months are up from an identical period in a recent sales year.
“I crunched the numbers the other day and I am doing better,” she said. “I don’t feel the traffic has bothered me a whole bunch. Out-of-towners don’t know about the construction, and local people don’t seem to have a problem coming in.”
As a Loop merchant who depends on a steady stream of patrons and as a business district leader who has the ear of other merchants, Edwards said construction disruptions have been manageable.
“We survived the closing of I-64/40 for two years and Forest Park Parkway for a year, and this is pretty lightweight compared to those,” Edwards said.
With a strong holiday season, The Silver Lady can recover from this summer’s sales slump, but doing so will require a construction lull, Weintrop said.
The west and eastbound lanes of Delmar Boulevard in the Loop could be completed by the end of October. All construction on the Loop Trolley is expected to be completed by the end of summer next year. photo by Ursula Ruhl (click for larger version)
“If they do any construction whatsoever in December, there will be 30 merchants that will probably close their doors. They won’t be able to make it,” Weintrop said.
For his part, Edwards said he is confident that trolley contractors can meet that timetable and other progress milestones ahead as well.
Trolley organizers this month met two milestones − completion of the DeBaliviere Boulevard bridge and the vehicular roundabout at the western edge of the Loop − and two construction crews are working to have the westbound and eastbound tracks finished in the Loop by Thanksgiving.
“We might have that completed by the end of October,” Edwards said. “Then, all construction should be completed by the end of summer next year, and the trolley should be running in the fall of 2016. That is becoming more and more certain.”
The DeBaliviere bridge renewal was a potential project stumbling block, but contractors did not encounter any major unanticipated problems with the 80-year-old structure.
“That was huge,” Edwards said.
Edwards said he was not concerned that any remaining legal challenges to the trolley line will yet derail the project.
“We have followed the court orders all the way, and we have done everything correctly,” he said.
Even trolley opponent Tom Sullivan seemed resigned to the trolley’s eventual operation.
“The trolley needs to run in a legal manner. It needs to run on a route that the court decreed,” said Sullivan in reference to a lawsuit filed by others challenging the boundaries of the district.
Contractors have altered their original trenching and tracking schedule to accommodate Loop merchants who want that work along the most congested part of the Loop completed for the holidays, Edwards said.
“They responded to the merchants’ desire to have most of the track construction completed before Thanksgiving,” Edwards said. “It was real important so the contractor has altered the schedule to make sure that request is fulfilled.”
Weintrop, who counts himself among trolley supporters, said that trolley administrators have been responsive to the needs of merchants.
“Whenever you have a complaint, they have been very responsive to what we’ve asked,” he said.
• On Monday, Sept. 28, Ameren will remove poles on the north side of Delmar from Limit to Kingsland. Sections of the sidewalk may be closed intermittently, then reopened upon completion. New lights on the south side of Delmar will be turned on before pole removal begins on the north side.
• Access to Leland Avenue is closed at Delmar. To reach the businesses on Leland and the parking lot north of Delmar, detour via Kingsland Avenue and Loop N.
• Trolley track construction continues on the north side of Delmar: east of The Pageant to east of Des Peres; east of Kingsland to west of Melville.
• Construction of the new greenway and track continues along the east side of DeBaliviere. Access to businesses remains open.
• MetroLink passengers: Use the stairs and elevator at the west entrance of the DeBaliviere station to access the platform.
• Pedestrians and bicyclists can access Forest Park via the sidewalk on the west side of DeBaliviere.
West End Word ©September 2015