The Downtown Revitalization Project in Hawley is considered a blessing but it has been a nightmare for at least one business owner.


The Downtown Revitalization Project in Hawley is considered a blessing but it has been a nightmare for at least one business owner.

The $825,000 project began the first week in October and has had some delays due to changes to deal with stormwater on the streets and off the roofs of two buildings and an unexpected former vault.

By November 20, crews had completed only portions of the first block, from the Fallsport Steakhouse to the Hawley Diner, and were discussing how much farther they could go before winter halted the project until spring.

Steve Smith, owner of the Fallsport Steakhouse at the corner of Main Ave. and Church St., says the long delays and mismanagement of the project have cost him a lot off business, while other business owners have said that while the construction on the east side of Main Ave. has hurt business, the losses are minimal compared to the gains that they expect when it is completed or the loss of business for other reasons such as the economic downturn.

The project started in front of the Fallsport when the sidewalks and curbs were removed from there down to the Hawley Diner’s driveway. Crews did not work on Oct. 4 during Hawley’s Harvest Hoedown and even filled in the sidewalk area so shoppers could approach the businesses there during the event.

The work moved on after that weekend and soon everything up to the front of the Diner was opened as well as the sidewalks from Keystone St. (the Diner and PNC Bank) down to The Trading Post, Whatknot’s. That was where one of the stormwater problems cropped up and caused a few weeks in delays.

Smith said his business was down 20 to 25 percent just from the project. He said the economy affects some of the business on Main Ave., but not his because his customers are retired.

He said he worried about the smaller businesses in the workzone. He said he thought some would be forced to close due to the loss of business.

“Eight weeks to do 150 yards, it’s appalling,” Smith said, pointing out there are no lights in front of his building to help customers safely find their way through the construction maze.

He said he worried about the delay and possible increases in the costs, something that already hit the project between the awarding of the first grants and the final approval of the plans.

Louis Beck, co-owner of Whatknot’s, agreed the construction has hurt business, but said he lost more due to the economic downturn. People are using what money they have to purchase essentials and not as many magazines, candy, knickknacks and other things he sells.

The additional losses from customers who do not make the trek through the construction hurts, he said, but he expects that pain to go away when project is completed next year.

Beck was ecstatic about the project as a whole. “I’m happy with it. It’s going to be great,” he said. He noted the delay for the stormwater line would solve a problem that has existed for years in his block.

“It hurts,” he said of the construction, “But I’m looking at the long term.”

Beck said the workers from Leeward have been going out of their way to help people through the work areas to the business. He said they moved equipment and even offered an arm to help some ladies over the uneven ground.

“They are more than gracious,” he said of the Leeward workers. “I’ll tell you that is appreciated.”

The way Leeward’s workers have treated potential customers was appreciated in other businesses as well. Jean Lawlor, manager of The Other Shop II, said the workers have been very helpful in aiding customers struggling to get to the shop. She added the workers have even opened a couple of bottles for the women who work at the shop, which is run by members of the Wayne Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.

The Other Shop II, which remains open all year, has taken a hit as far as business is concerned. Yawlor said business was off a bit, but added she expected the end results of the project to make up for it.

“We’re gonna complain, but we’ll love it when its done,” she added. She said the new sidewalks will be wonderful. She explained customers won’t have to walk over broken stones to get to the stores, which sells gently used items and helps raise money for the Wayne Memorial Hospital.

China House Chinese Restaurant saw its lunch business go down, but Fang Chen said the end result looked nice.

Other businesses The News Eagle contacted did not responded by presstime Thursday.

Delays

Plans for the project did not include stormwater drains causing some of the delay. The area from PNC to Whatknot’s has always had stormwater pooling there. Both PNC and Whatknot’s have had problems with water in the basements.

Work stopped as Hawley Borough and Leeward Construction, the contractor on the project, met with PennDOT to not only plan a solution but also find a way to pay for it, explained Council Member Mary Sanders, who has been coordinating the project since the Borough applied for the grants to pay for it.

Sanders said the other issues included changes to move a stormwater catch basin by the Fallsport as well.

She noted they also found what they thought were window wells at the Fallsport, only to discover one was actually a tunnel which appeared to run under Main Ave. toward Teeters Furniture. While the tunnel was filled sometime in the past, PennDOT and the Borough had to determine if the fill was good enough to leave it in place or if it had to be excavated for more suitable materials. In the end, Leeward was given the green light to leave the fill in place and continue with the work.

Both PNC and The Fallsport had roof drains which had to be relocated. PNC’s drain emptied under the sidewalk, while the Fallsport had to unhook its roof drain from the sewer line and reconnect it to the stormwater lines, something that added costs to the property owner.

Sanders said while the delay in construction, which came mostly from the stormwater problems near PNC, was bad enough to hurt businesses, the unexpected storm that hit allowed water to enter the PNC Bank building due to the construction.

Sanders said there have been concerns about the effects on businesses, especially with the economy as it is. But overall the majority of the businesses effected so far have given her positive feedback.

She noted a representative of PNC Bank told her that at every property where streetscape projects like this have been completed, business improved for the Bank.

“We have to look at tomorrow and what (the project) will bring to Hawley,” said Mayor Ann Morgan.

“We all expected this,” she said of the interruption to business.

Things are beginning to get back on track. Leeward finished the stormwater work and has since finished the curbs and poured the bulbouts at the Fallsport, Hawley Diner and PNC Bank. Workers were laying the bluestone at the Fallsport Wednesday and said they hoped to have that section completed by this weekend.

Kevin Hawk, Council member and an employee for Leeward, said they decided to complete the remaining block on the east side of Main Ave. He said they had discussed finishing to Whatknot’s and leaving the rest, but finally agreed to complete the block.