Harmony Lot work expected to be complete on Wednesday

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BRATTLEBORO — With Harmony Lot upgrades almost finished, businesses can prepare to get back to business as usual.

Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland said the project was initially expected to wrap up on Friday. He expects the work to end Wednesday.

"Whenever you've got a multi-week project you're planning weeks in advance, to get within a few days is pretty good," he said. "I appreciate the great patience everybody has shown."

Moreland blamed the delay on a combination of weather and scheduling for subcontractors.

Two weeks were going to be spent on the west side of the parking lot. Then the east side would take another two weeks. Final paving was supposed to take place last week.

Moreland said he has been visiting the site two or three times a day throughout the project and has heard "widespread support."

"There's a great deal of enthusiasm for sprucing that area up," he added. "It seems everyone's fairly pleased with the design, pavement and sidewalks."

But not everyone has been happy with the delay.

"I doubt you are aware as to how much this construction has cost all of us business owners in lost sales," Lisa Shippee, owner of Scissor Master Salon and Day Spa on Elliot Street, wrote to the town manager. "I walked to many of the businesses in town and spoke directly to owners who are feeling the growing pain."

Erin Scaggs, co-owner of Elliot Street Fish, Chips & More, said the main impact of the project had to do with customers expressing difficulty finding parking and the loudness of construction as people sat outdoors to eat.

"When people complained about parking I gently reminded them that there is a large parking garage just down the street," she said, noting that her entrance had not been taped off during construction like other businesses. "I think the new sidewalks look nice."

Scaggs, who prefers to park in Harmony Lot herself, said she looks forward to seeing the improvements when they're completely finished.

"I think the upgrades were necessary," said Dan Unwin, co-owner of Taylor For Flowers. "Have I seen an impact on business? Yes. It's definitely down because you can't use it all."

Unwin, who has owned the flower shop for 41 years as of Sunday, was around to see when trees were planted and brick sidewalks were added to Harmony Lot about 20 or 30 years ago.

"Over time, frost takes its course," he said. "That's why they went with concrete this time around."

Unwin said he is looking forward to the lines being drawn on the pavement and all the parking spots being available again.

"Being a flower shop is a double hit," he said. "Because I need a delivery vehicle relatively close by."

With deliveries every day and a few weddings over the last few weeks, he said, logistics have been interesting.

"Being flexible and being patient and trying to work around everyone is the only way you get through a project this size," he added.

Richard French, founder and CEO of The Works Bakery Cafe, said regular communication could have been better. He wanted more updates and information on schedule changes updates.

"From what I've heard, once completed the Harmony Lot will look great," he said, noting that August and early September tend to be his business's busiest months. "We seemingly noticed an impact to business roughly in the 5 to 10 percent range when the construction was heaviest on our side of the lot."

French reported having difficulties accommodating drivers when access to his business was limited. With large deliveries that take more than an hour to bring inside, he heard items had to be brought in via hand truck from Elliot Street.

But a special exception was made from 7 to 8 a.m. one week. Items from the delivery truck were unloaded and brought under the tape, French said.

"That was great," he added.

Chris Antoniello, co-owner of Harmony Underground, said his business and the bar Arkham "fully depend" on the parking lot for access. He only had to close one day while cement was poured.

"They coordinated with my friend Amanda, who was helping me through the process," he said. "We did everything conceivable to keep me open but they had to pour the cement and we couldn't find a safe, feasible way to stay open. But they tried everything they could."

This week, he's not sure what to expect.

"But if it's anything like the last couple weeks, these guys are awesome. They have done such a fantastic job keeping in touch," Antoniello said. "I've lost some sales absolutely, without a doubt. But it has nothing to do with what their efforts are. Their efforts were phenomenal in everything that they did."

The sidewalk in front of his business was finished first so he could open early the next morning, he said, calling it a "world of difference" from the previous path as it's safer and more aesthetically pleasing.

Up next is Harris Lot. Work is set to begin on Monday. The parking lot will get new paving and curbing, and a sidewalk separating the Gibson-Aiken Center's parking lot from Harris Lot will be replaced.

Moreland said the town has been in regular communication with all the permit holders for Harris Lot. Permits will be honored in other town lots. For lot users without permits, posters have been put up to alert them of the project, which is expected to take about three weeks.

"That should be a little bit easier than Harmony Lot," Moreland said. "A little less congestion."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.

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