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25th Street construction closure spurs push for program to help impacted businesses |

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Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

Stephanie DeTar, left, inside her Ogden locale, The Lotus Cafe, on Nov. 23, 2022. Barista Izzy Grow is on the right.

OGDEN — The ripple effects of the extensive upgrade of 25th Street earlier this year, east of Washington Boulevard to Jefferson Avenue, still reverberate.

And it’s not just motorists who are grumbling.

“We basically lost business. We lost a ton of business,” said Stephanie DeTar, operator of The Lotus Cafe at 529 25th St., which sits in the heart of the 25th Street section that was closed to accommodate development of the Utah Transit Authority’s bus rapid transit system, or BRT. “Our numbers were shot this year.”

Two to three months after the varied 25th Street sections between Washington and Jefferson avenues reopened, other business operators tell similar stories — that they’re still struggling to get back to normal. The closure along 25th Street east of Washington Boulevard started last January and extended in certain sections into August, beyond what DeTar believed to be the original end date, sometime in May.

But they’re not just complaining. Some, including DeTar, are saying the city should learn from the turn of events and create a program to better assist business operators impacted by future road projects.

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

Stephanie DeTar, left, inside her Ogden locale, The Lotus Cafe, on Nov. 23, 2022. Ruthie Shinn, who is in the process of acquiring the locale, is on the right.

Thaine Fischer operates The Monarch, which houses art studios and an events venue, and says if a street is to be completely closed more than, say, 90 days due to construction, impacted business operators ought to be entitled to compensation. That sort of closure — in contrast to a partial street closure that still allows some traffic flow — is too much.

It’s almost impossible to survive three months of no traffic flowing by your business “and it’s unfair to the business,” said Fischer, located a block west of The Lotus, also on 25th Street. “You just can’t shut your business down for 90 days, and that’s, in essence, what happened.”

To that end, DeTar said she recently approached Ogden officials, asking them to consider creation of a “construction mitigation grant” program for Ogden, modeled after a similar initiative in Salt Lake City. Broadly, businesses impacted by road construction would be eligible for some sort of a grant funding from the city as compensation for their losses.

The city ultimately rejected the proposal, worried, DeTar said, about the potential cost of facing requests from multiple businesses. She still thinks it’s a good idea, though, and Mark Johnson, chief administrative officer for the city, said officials are actually considering creation of a mitigation grant program.

“We’re exploring that. We have to have a source of money to be able to do that,” he said. A sticking point, he went on, is creating limits. If one business gets a grant, he worries, “you have to do that for all of them.”

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

Stephanie DeTar, left, inside her Ogden locale, The Lotus Cafe, on Nov. 23, 2022. Ruthie Shinn, who is in the process of acquiring the locale, is on the right.

‘THROUGH AN OBSTACLE COURSE’

The closure on 25th Street was perhaps a tougher obstacle for adjacent business operators than parallel work on other roadways, like Washington and Harrison boulevards. Creation of the BRT is necessitating improvements on many road sections between the two endpoints of the high-speed bus system — the FrontRunner Station in downtown Ogden and the Weber State University campus and McKay-Dee Hospital.

On Washington and Harrison boulevards, for instance, traffic has been maintained amid the roadwork, even if flow has been winnowed from two lanes to one in each direction in some areas at times. Likewise, driveway access to businesses has been maintained. However, to better accommodate the extensive work on narrower 25th Street — replacement of underground power, sewer and water lines, among other things — the roadway had to be completely closed.

Thus, patrons wanting to visit the businesses in the more heavily impacted 25th Street section — The Lotus Cafe, the Art Box, Cuppa, The Monarch, WB’s Eatery and more — had to park on side streets and maneuver at times through dusty road beds, equipment and construction barriers.

“Basically you had to go through an obstacle course,” said DeTar, who’s in the process of selling The Lotus Cafe.

Fischer said many people just gave up on visiting the 25th Street businesses east of Washington Boulevard. “They just completely avoided it,” he said.

The ripple effects for Deanna Leslie, owner of the Art Box, a gift shop and studio a block south of The Lotus Cafe inside The Monarch, linger. “I’m still struggling,” she said.

James Larson, spokesman for the Utah Transit Authority, said the agency is mindful of the impact of work like the 25th Street upgrades and takes steps to assist impacted businesses. The agency conducts social media campaigns to inform the public that businesses in construction areas are still open, puts up signage to direct customers, finds alternate parking areas and more. The organizations also passed out a mess of of $15 vouchers, funded by UTA, that were good for use by the public at impacted businesses.

“With construction, there’s no ideal time,” Larson said. “When you’re dealing with major roads and you have to close roads down, it’s not ideal.”

He said the 25th Street work lasted just two to three weeks longer than anticipated and that work crews tried to do it in phases to minimize closures of long stretches of roadway. On the bright side, the road improvements and the coming of the buses when the BRT system is finished next year will boost the number of people traveling along the roadway. That’ll increase the customer pool for 25th Street businesses.

“In the long run, this is really going to create some amazing opportunities for these businesses,” he said.

Fischer, operator of The Monarch, recognizes the long-term benefits of the roadway upgrades and takes that as consolation. “I’m a big fan of what they’ve done,” he said.

He’s particularly looking forward to the specter of increased public activities on the wider sidewalk in front of The Monarch and the adjacent Dumke Arts Plaza. Street activities common on 25th Street west of Washington Boulevard in front of the Ogden Amphitheater and the business of Historic 25th Street, he hopes, can now extend eastward up the hill to Adams Avenue.

“There no longer has to be a hard stop at Washington,” he said.

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