Maggie Allison, co-owner of Balboa Market, who said she has seen about a
40% decline in business since roadwork began in November. She said
torn-up and blocked-off streets and sidewalks have at times blocked cars
from entering her parking lot. At other times, the closure of Washington
Street has encouraged drivers to cut through her parking lot to get to
Others, though, especially merchants reliant on street parking, say
the city's efforts have made a big difference in their businesses.
Metered spaces in the area now offer two hours of free parking from 8
a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Signs direct shoppers to available spots.
For Yvonne Mithrush, owner of Mithrush Fashions on Balboa Boulevard,
the free parking has helped her business a lot. But the biggest help came
when the city lifted its prohibition of left turns from Balboa Boulevard
onto Main Street.
"They acted really fast, and it helped a lot," Mithrush said.
Officials also tried to put the word out to neighbors that their local
merchants could use their help.
"Continuing and increasing your patronage of Balboa merchants whenever
possible will help them through this period of difficulty," a city-issued
flier implored neighbors.
"One man came in and said, 'I don't need anything but I'm going to buy
something anyway because I feel sorry for you businesspeople down here,"'
Mithrush said, adding that he was one of a number of neighbors who have
gone out of their way to show support.
The roughly $8-million renovation project will add new lighting and
sewers and rebuilt restrooms at the base of the Balboa Pier, along with
other functional and aesthetic improvements. Construction is expected to
continue until May. In that duration, metered spaces will continue to
allow two hours of free parking.
"When they're done, I think it will be worth it. It's going to look
good, and I think it's going to get more tourists to come," said Happi
Singh, co-owner of Bal Harbor Liquors, who said his business has suffered
only a slight decline because of the construction. "They're doing it for
all of us. I don't really have any complaints about it."
* June Casagrande covers Newport Beach. She may be reached at (949)
574-4232 or by e-mail at o7 firstname.lastname@example.org .