Support Sanford Ave BizWhat a difference a couple of weeks makes.

Business owners along Sanford Avenue were upset when they learned the city of Sanford planned to close their street on March 3 for as long as four months to complete a $2.5 million streetscape project. (“City’s bumbling threatens local businesses”)

Tempers flared at times during a Feb. 25 meeting, the first in series of regularly scheduled meetings between city officials and business owners to discuss the project.

A week later the mood was considerably lighter. At one point Paul Williams, owner of West End Trading Co., and Shantell Williams, of Shantell’s Cafe and Oyster Bar, offered to provide a keg of beer and food if construction crews worked later into the night.

“I’m not sure how much work would get done if you did that,” joked Deputy City Manager Tom George, who admitted the city was slow in communicating with businesses about the status of the construction.

“The important thing now is we are talking and getting feedback from the businesses about what we can do to assist them,” George said.

He and Robert Beall, the city’s project manager, outlined the city’s efforts to assist the businesses, which include:

  • Setting up two portable light towers to illuminate the area for pedestrians trying to get to businesses.
  • Erecting blue directional signs along the detour routes on Palmetto and Cypress avenues to identify which businesses are on each block.
  • Scheduling advertising about the businesses, events, street closures and available parking areas in the Sanford Herald, Orlando Weekly and Lake Mary Life publications.
  • Uploading parking maps and information about the project on the home page of the city’s Web site.
  • Positioning variable message boards on each end of the construction area to alert motorists that Sanford Avenue businesses are still open despite the construction.
  • Easing the enforcement on code violations like signage, sandwich boards and flags during the construction period.

Beall noted that the contractor, Stage Door II, is trying to complete as much of the project as possible before tearing out the sidewalks between 4th and 5th streets, where the majority of the business are located.

“When we do have to pull them up, we’ll build boardwalks to help you get people in and out of your business,” Beall said.

George said the city is currently working with two property owners to provide additional parking space. One location would be at the northwest corner of Sanford Avenue and 3rd Street. The other location would be in the Sanford Supermarket parking lot.

The city would provide some minor repairs to both lots, as well as signs indicating the lots were available for municipal parking. As of Wednesday agreements had not been inked, but George said both property owners were very cooperative and expected to sign.

Representatives from the Greater Sanford Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Historic Sanford Welcome Center also attended the meeting to offer their support for the Sanford Avenue businesses.

The Welcome Center’s Event Manager, Maguire Wise, said her organization was offering free booths to the monthly Alive After Five festival to all businesses on Sanford Avenue while the street was under construction.

Paul Williams was appreciative of the city’s assistance and noted that the business owners have formed their own network to share information and promote the area.

“I think we all had pretty good weekends, in part because their is a raised awareness about what’s going on,” Williams said. “We just need to keep it up and promote each other.”

Paulii Buster, owner of Buster’s Bistro, echoed Williams remarks. Buster had been very blunt during the first meeting with city officials.

“I know I pissed some people of last week,” said Buster. “Now it’s awesome. It’s more than I can hope for in such a short period of time. I thank you for your help.”

— By Dan Ping

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