Downtown construction impacts St. Augustine business

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- In St. Augustine, a streetscape project has business owners feeling a financial pinch.

The streetscape project on Hypolita Street crosses right over St. George Street, one of the busiest tourist areas in St. Augustine.

Colleen Messner owns the Spice and Tea Exchange on Hypolita, and it's a little tricky to get into her shop because the road in front of it is all torn up.

"People look down our street and go, 'Ugh. I'm not going down that street.' And that's scary," Messner said.

She has put up her own sign on a construction fence, letting people know the store is open.

"You still have to keep the business going but we have to educate and let people know what's all around us," Messner said.

She said the project has affected her bottom line. "It does have an effect. Of course, it's going to be dropped. Just grin and bear it and try to make the best of it."

The $3.3 million project -- on four connecting downtown streets -- is tackling the necessities underground by replacing the city's utilities such as water and sewer pipes, updating the drainage system, and putting in FPL and Comcast upgrades.

It's enough to make leave tourists a bit curious when maneuvering around construction fencing, equipment, and construction signs.

Richard Kennedy is visiting from Birmingham, Alabama. He's a tourist and a general contractor, and he understands.

"It's a little inconvenient. Nothing major. You still gotta have you're infrastructure taken care of," Kennedy smiled.

When the work underground is complete, the streetscape above ground will include streets that are flush with the sidewalk, new lights, and landscaping with a new pocket park.

"Oh, I think it will look beautiful," Messner added.

She and other merchants will deal with the mess and hope it will ultimately bring more foot traffic and business their way.

The work on Hypolita is expected to last until October. The entire project is expected to be complete next spring.


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