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Navarro Street construction brings headaches to some business owners

By ALLISON MILES
July 12, 2013 at 2:12 a.m.
Updated July 13, 2013 at 2:13 a.m.

Business at Ibedzzz has been slowed because of construction and lane closures outside of the store at the corner of Navarro Street and Kelly Drive.

Did you know ... ?

You can keep tabs on ongoing city construction projects by going online. Visit VictoriaTX.org and click the "construction projects update" tab on the right-hand side.

Music filled the vast garage at Howard's Auto Care Center on Friday as workers gathered around a truck in need of some TLC.

And while the five or so vehicles inside the garage meant the men had work to do, owner Bryan Howard said he wishes there were more.

Road work along Navarro Street - all part of a $1.5 million annexation project - has cut the garage's daily car count from his old average of eight to 10 daily down to about two.

"I've had days that nobody even stops in here. Zero cars," Howard said with a sigh. "It makes you start worrying about what's gonna happen."

And he isn't alone. With closed-off lanes, traffic bottlenecks and other such issues, other business owners, too, say they've felt the road work pinch.

The annexation project that spurred the work got its start Jan. 24, said Lynn Short, Victoria's public works director. While the entire project spans a larger area, the bulk of current construction sits between the 6400 and 7100 blocks of North Navarro Street.

Jimmy Roach, deputy director of the city of Victoria's Public Works department, said the project hit a few roadblocks of its own.

Crews replaced the area's 15-inch sewer line with a 24-inch line, but when they went to remove trench boxes, the dry soil began to shift and collapsed. That led to troubles for the road's middle lane, so crews closed it, too, for repairs. The end result was the southbound side of Navarro Street going from three lanes to one lane in the affected areas.

Now, he said, crews must remove the street's base and surface, recompact that base and apply a new hot mix surface.

"They started milling yesterday, and they're progressing," Roach said Tuesday, noting the project is slated for completion by month's end. "They're doing all they can to get it resolved."

A few doors down from Howard's, Ibedzzz's sign advertised "Super savings due to construction."

Customer traffic inside the furniture store at 6703 N. Navarro St. has slowed by at least 75 percent from where it sat when the work began, said Jessica Venegas, the store's manager. Ibedzzz has taken to sales to make up some business.

"Thank God we have two stores in town, or else the city might have put us out of business," she said.

She said it frustrates her to know that she and other business owners are still paying rent, without aid of tax abatements or similar help. The real hardship, however, comes to the employees who work off commission.

"If they can't sell anything, they can't get a check," she said.

Shanda Salas manages the Professional Uniform Center on Laurent Street and remembers weathering her own shop's woes years ago, when the city began making repairs. At the time, she said, the shop didn't do much differently but did apologize to customers for the inconvenience.

She encouraged Crossroads residents to continue patronizing the businesses they normally do even if road blocks make them less accessible.

"It's not their fault that construction is there," she said.

Meanwhile, inside Golden Wings at 6605 N. Navarro St., the construction crunch hasn't dealt quite the same blow.

Store manager Melissa Mead said some customers make comments about the work, but it hasn't really affected business. She attributed that partly to the fact that the shop, which opened in September, is still fairly new.

Mead said she doesn't typically have trouble pulling out of the parking lot because someone usually stops to let her in. If crews happen to be out at the time, they'll direct traffic, so she and her customers can make safe exits.

And in the end, Mead said, the final product is worth it.

"It was unsafe," she said of road conditions. "Either people want to fall in the crack, or they want to get it fixed."

Roach said the city has tried to work with business owners to keep the inconvenience at a minimum but encouraged those with questions or concerns to contact the city's public works department at 361-485-3381. The department, he said, will help however it can.

"We appreciate them being supportive of us and cooperating with us during this trying time," he said of Victoria residents.

As for Howard, he said the current work is a major inconvenience, but it could be worse. In fact, for him, it has been worse.

Years ago, he said, he owned a shop at the corner of Mockingbird Lane and Navarro Street. When city repairs began outside his shop, what started as a short-term project expanded to more than a year-and-a-half ordeal.

"That deal over there probably cost me about $50,000. It's still costing me money," he said, explaining he had to extend his bank note, which meant added interest. "Hopefully, this time they'll hurry up and get things done."

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