The Liberty Tribune’s opinion page features the tag line: Willing to praise, but not afraid to blame. The downtown reconstruction warrants a bit of both. As the community newspaper providing hyper-local coverage, we are also a business, and as luck would have it, part of the first phase of the downtown reconstruction.
Needless to say, the construction has not been easy to handle. We, like our neighbors, have lost substantial foot traffic as the street outside our front door has been closed for the past four months and sidewalk access has been reduced.
Yes, as the community newspaper, we invite folks to come to our office to buy an extra copy of the paper, get a subscription, place a classified ad or bring in a news tip. While we aren’t the usual sort of business, we are a business none the less. And we are appreciative of those dedicated customers who have traversed the construction zone to get to our front door throughout this process.
Our primary product is delivered through the mail and online, so arguably, we have fared a bit better than some of our neighbors on North Main Street.
Three Gables Decor owners John and Lonna Bissonnette took a vacation this summer to escape the noise and mess. They will mark their first anniversary in October. The best gift to them might be access to their front door and customers to walk through it.
Jean and Del Warren at James Country Mercantile have been more vocal about their dissatisfaction with the slowness of the construction. She does online sales, but like any business with a true brick-and-mortar storefront, the couple banks on more than a few visitors traipsing through their store.
Even the First Presbyterian Church at the corner of Mississippi and Main streets has seen a drop in attendance since the downtown reconstruction began in early June.
Now a second crew has come in and moved to what is labeled as the second phase — on Kansas Street between Main and Prairie streets. While more than a few folks wondered why Main was not completed before moving on, it appears that the Kansas Street progress has been much faster.
Have these disruptions been a discomfort? Sure, had the downtown business district been a residential street, the workers may have had to worry about the neighbors leaving in the morning and returning in the evening, but this is a business district and business goes on here. There is activity around the Square from early in the morning into the evening.
Look at the Clay County Administration Building smack in the middle of everything. People are paying taxes, recording land purchases, applying for marriage licenses. It is a busy place.
We applaud the city’s decision to suspend the construction on the Square just before Thanksgiving. The break between phases three and four will help all the businesses hopefully recoup some from the street closures and benefit from holiday shoppers who will be able to more freely move about the entire downtown business district than they have in recent months.
At the Monday, Sept. 26, City Council meeting, Mayor Lyndell Brenton took the opportunity to encourage patronage at the “small entrepreneurial businesses” around the Square as the downtown redevelopment work progresses. We appreciate that sentiment and echo it.
Despite our frustrations, we do have to acknowledge that the end result — the new streets and sidewalks, the utility improvements, the new landscaping, crosswalks and parking upgrades — is something the public signed off on when voters approved a three-eights-cent economic development sales tax in November 2014.
We look forward to the new and improved Liberty Square, but with the estimated six-week first phase now in week 17, our patience is wearing a little thin. We’re worried, too.
We all want a fresh look for the Square, and we hope that all the existing businesses are still here to enjoy the new look once it is complete. In the meantime, we need to support our downtown economy.
Pardon the dust, mind your step and shop local.