McKinney city officials are discussing ways to further help businesses that are being impacted by the Light Up Louisiana project after one business owner said his store had four days without customers in one week.
Light Up Louisiana, a comprehensive improvement project along east and west Louisiana Street in Downtown McKinney, involves a complete reconstruction of the Louisiana street corridor, including street and walkway construction. Phase one, which extended between Church and Kentucky streets, was completed in the fall.
Construction and contracting company Axis Contracting was given the notice to proceed for Phase 2 on Jan. 4 with substantial completion expected June 25. The company has an up to $60,000 incentive bonus in store should the project be completed early.
Nick Ataie, engineering CIP manager with the city of McKinney, told City Council members Tuesday that street paving had been completed on the northern half of the roadway and that the sidewalk development had been completed from Chestnut Street to State Highway 5. Construction between Johnson and Chestnut streets was expected to be completed by the end of the week and then to move on to a portion between Johnson and Tennessee streets.
Ataie mentioned that coordination with businesses along the project was a part of the process. That includes providing a temporary boardwalk access to the business after cement is laid down.
“They’re being very accommodating to the businesses trying to work around their hours in front of the businesses,” Ataie said, “and essentially as they’re working on the sidewalks adjacent to the businesses, the pedestrian traffic is on the new street.”
However, for Jim Latino, who owns a sports and pop culture merchandise store in the 200 block of Louisiana Street, business has been impacted. He had four days in the previous week with no customers, he said. He added that his neighbors had also been affected.
However, he said, his comments weren’t a complaint against Axis.
“They’re being as cooperative as they can be, the city’s been supportive, I mean I have nothing to complain about from that,” Latino said. “But the bottom line is it’s still impacting our business immensely.”
Mayor Pro Tem Rainey Rogers said while restaurants may not suffer as much from such projects, others may be more impacted.
“Some businesses just rely on people walking by and like ‘Oh, what is that in there?’ and going there, and that’s what they’re not getting at this point,” he said.
The city has made some steps to support the area in the midst of construction, including coordinating with downtown events, providing a $5 “construction coupon” to help provide traffic to impacted businesses and using wayfinding signage.
Amy Rosenthal, director of the McKinney Performing Arts Center (MPAC) and McKinney Main Street, said they would continue to look for creative ways to drive traffic to the businesses.
“The businesses that are being impacted right now are in a really complicated spot,” she said. “I really will continue to think about things that we can do for the future.”
During the Tuesday City Council work session, Rogers suggested bringing the item up at the next meeting for the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 1, where he said there were some funds available.
Two other councilmen agreed that there were funds available, and Mayor George Fuller said the discussion would be on the next reinvestment zone meeting agenda.
Councilman Charlie Phlips warned council members that if they did end up using funds to provide compensation, it would be setting a precedent for the future.
“I don’t want to set a precedent that we’re compensating people for improving the roadways in front of them,” he said, “but I am sympathetic to the downtown business owners as well, because I want every business in McKinney to be successful.”