Downtown Bainbridge businesses concerned with Winslow Way project’s impacts

Downtown business owners are nervous about how their bottom line will change when Winslow Way reconstruction begins, but most are resigned to the project happening, according to the survey results from the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association.

The responses were compiled from 97 downtown businesses generating 175 comments. Fifty-nine percent of those polled said they are either strongly or somewhat in favor of the project. Many expressed concerns that the project hasn’t been clearly addressed, and reduced parking and access will detour potential customers after two years of business in a bad economy.

Business owners want to know if the project can get done on time, and they want clear communications.

More than half said they have stayed sufficiently profitable over the last two years, and about 60 percent said they don’t anticipate construction will close their doors.

But concerns still exist, and many said they are struggling to stay open.

The city decided Wednesday to allocate $40,000 in its 2011 proposed budget for BIDA to work in partnership with the city to create a communication and marketing plan for the project. Chris Wierzbicki, deputy director of planning, said the city also has a separate $12,000 budgeted for a communication plan yet to be created.

The council approved the formation of the Winslow Way Local Improvement District, and is on target to advertise for construction in mid-November with construction beginning no earlier than March and lasting eight to nine months.

The total estimated construction cost is approximately $5.6 million and almost 90 percent of the funds are coming from state and federal grant sources and private contributions, according to city officials.

Wierzbicki said the city expects to lose anywhere form 20 to 40 on-street parking spaces at any one time during construction. There isn’t any monetary compensation for impacts to business and the majority of the construction will occur during the day, but they will try to keep utility crossovers or work involving temporary service disruptions done at night. The city will also attempt to provide access to businesses through temporary walkways, bridges and ramps.

“Due to the grant deadlines, the city can’t push the project out until next year,” Wierzbicki said. “So the best thing I can say is that business owners that are nervous should come to BIDA and city-sponsored meetings on the project in an effort to stay informed. They need to learn about what’s happening and hopefully offer suggestions about how to improve the process.”

The city will have monthly fourth Wednesday project meetings, starting at 8 a.m. on Oct. 27 at City Hall and may move to a bimonthly schedule as construction draws near.

BIDA is still trying to pull together resources to find additional support for businesses during the project. Members from agencies like the Regional Small Business Administration, Kitsap Economic Development Alliance and U.S. Economic Development Authority will meet with city officials next week to identify prospective sources for mitigation support.

The strategy for the $40,000 allocated to BIDA is still in discussions. Executive Director Andrea Mackin said she is trying to determine future plans for the association.

Survey results are posted here on the Downtown Association website.

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