By Mattie Stevens
In mid-July, signs and cones went up on roads surrounding Lane Ave. At the same time, giant electric boards stating “ROAD WORK AHEAD” popped up, and adjacent areas received letters in the mail alerting them of the chaos to come. Over the next year, a new hotel and restaurant are to be built, while new waterlines will also be laid underneath parts of Lane Ave. Residents are angered by the amount of traffic that are proposed to come down their road, and establishments in the Lane Avenue area have experienced a loss in business as a result of the difficulty it takes to get to them. In addition to the regular difficulties that come with construction, there have also been legal issues concerning the ability to sell alcohol at the new hotel and restauraunt. This in turn, could leave surrounding restuaraunts under the same circumstances.
Construction on Lane Ave. has brought traffic down residential roads and hurt surrounding businesses, resulting in angry residents and frustrated businesses.
Driving to school, many students may have noticed the hoards of cones lining the streets of Lane Avenue, or the redirected traffic routes patrolled by police. And if not those, then perhaps students have noticed the gaping hole where the Lane Avenue Baptist Church once stood.
According to the official Upper Arlington website, in one year, construction on the new Commercial District will be complete and a brand new hotel and restaurant will be in place.
In an article published on Sept. 5 in the Columbus Dispatch, co-writers Dean Narciso and Jim Woods reported that City Officials believed the new commercial district would drive development and help reduce residential taxes.
However, in the mean time, the neighborhoods and businesses surrounding the up-and-coming commercial district have been heavily affected by the construction. It has brought traffic down residential roads which are home to many children and jeopardized the amount of customers that visit surrounding restaurants, stores and businesses.
Berkshire Rd. is the next road over south of Lane Ave., with the shopping center in its residents’ backyards. With traffic now so slow down Lane Ave., drivers resort to taking Berkshire Rd. to North Star Rd., increasing the amount of traffic down Berkshire tremendously.
According to the official Upper Arlington website, over the summer, residents met twice with city officials, and brainstormed ways to discourage traffic down the street. In the meetings, it was agreed that cones would be placed down the street in order to discourage traffic, as well as signs that measure speed and signs that state that police regularly moniter the area.
Residents hoped that these obstructions would keep traffic down, and while it has helped, there are still many cars frequently driving down the street.
In addition to a constant flow of vehicles down the street, there are COTA buses frequently using Berkshire as an escape from the hectic construction. Residents have called city officials as well as the police to deal with the problem that puts the safety of their children and any cars parked in the streets at risk.
Next to residential areas, surrounding businesses are also suffering. La Chatelaine General Manager Mandy Black tells of the challenges they have faced so far.
“There is at least one day a week where our entrance is blocked off, and customers come in everyday complaining about the construciton and that they had to go down North Star [Rd.] or Northwest Blvd and use the back streets to get to us.”
In addition to the challenge of the commute, the workers also hit a gas line and the restuaraunt had to close down for the day.
“In front of the restauraunt there is the patio, then the sidewalk, and beyond that is a grassy area. The sidewalk is our property but the grass beyond belongs to the city,” Black said. “They’re constantly having to park construction vehicles, signs, ect. on that grass.”
These obstruct people’s view to the restauraunt, and they are less inclined to sit on the patio because it is so loud. Black said that the construction has cut their clientele by 50 percent.
The restauraunt has been reaching out to the community by dropping fliers on OSU’s campus, in hopes of attracting new customers.
However, the staff at La Chatelaine has kept a surprisingly positive attitude.
“We are a family owned business, and people in the community are extremely supportive of us,” Black said. “We’ll be fine.”
A Controversial Issue
A year after plans for a new hotel and restauraunt were approved by the city, legal issues arise that affect surrounding establishments.
Not only does the recent Lane Ave. construction present problems for Berkshire Rd., it also has presented problems for surrounding businesses. When signing paperwork and contracts, it seems that one detail was problematic: the area’s potential designation as “dry,” which means the sale of alcohol is prohibited. An Aug. 13 Columbus Dispatch article explained why the area is “dry.” In 1970 when the church was annexed, it was declared alcohol free. The problem is that the law says that annexed land retains its wet or dry status until voters change it.
Not only does the construction present problems for Berkshire Rd., but it also has presented problems for surrounding businesses.
On Sept. 4, the UA City Council met to discuss whether to put the issue on the ballot in November. If the council had come to a decision on its own about the liquor option, it would not be put forth for voters. However, since it failed to do so, citizens will vote on whether the precint – a designated area of land – will remain “dry” or become “wet”. If voters choose to keep the area dry, businesses in the vecinity could potentially lose their current liquor lisences.
Surprisingly, La Chatelaine General Manager, Mandy Black, is not concerned by these happenings.
“We are a family business, and we do have fantastic French wines and beers and we do have a bar area. However, we’re not open late – we close at 9 – so we don’t have drunks stumbling in late at night or anything like that.”
City Attorney Jeanine Hummer assured businesses it is not a definite tragedy if people vote no on the issue.
“The City is prepared to assist with the legal action to secure the liquor licenses.There may be other legislative actions available to assist the current license holders.”
While La Chatelaine is proud of the French wines and beers they offer, they don’t feel strongly enough about the liquor problem to take legal action.
“We have lots to offer, and faithful customers,” Black said. “We’ll be fine.”