First week of Donnelly Street construction shows promise for Mount Dora merchants
Work is underway on the Donnelly Street portion of phase two… (Tom Benitez, Orlando Sentinel )
MOUNT DORA — Closed streets and noisy construction work on the city's main drag hasn't slowed visitors, according to downtown merchants.
Residents appear to be turning out to support their local businesses, despite concerns that the road work on Donnelly Street and Third Avenue would hurt business. The work that began last week is part of phase two of the downtown streetscape project and required the closure of Donnelly between Fourth and Fifth avenues and Third Avenue between Dora Drawdy Way and Baker Street.
This phase, which is expected to wrap up by Oct. 1, will create new event power sources, furniture, lighting and wider sidewalks, among other improvements.
Despite the long-term benefits of the project, merchants worried that construction would drive away customers like it did last summer, during phase one. Some business owners in those construction zones reported huge losses in foot traffic and revenue. However, it appears that better planning and communication with the city seems to have made a big difference for this phase.
Judy Ransanici, owner of One Flight Up Cafe, said her business has increased a little because of support from locals.
"This is their town — they love Mount Dora," Ransanici said. "It's a historical city and to get a big, brand-new facelift — especially with how beautiful the streetscape is going to be — people are really excited about it."
Help has come from Burkhardt Construction, whose crew members make a point to keep the sidewalk clear for foot traffic. Carla Pereira, owner of Piglet's Pantry, said it's one of things that helps her "stay positive" while construction is ongoing.
"They're very neat, they're very organized. I'm very impressed with them," Pereira said. "I mean it's inconvenient, but it'll be worth it in the long run."
The construction crew also connected with a few merchants by sharing things they've dug up from the street such as bottles, trinkets and, most recently, a gas canister.
"We're just trying to have a fun time with this," Pereira said. "It's an adventure."
Thirty-two merchants in the construction zones also will receive a city grant to improve their stores during the construction period, city spokeswoman Kelda Senior said.
"Our merchants have really applied for it to do improvements either to the interior or the exterior of their businesses."
Last week, the city increased its allocations for such grants from $60,000 to $166,700 because of the outpouring of interest, Senior said.
Pereira received one of the grants for her store. She plans to use it for buying energy-efficient lighting, painting her front door and getting a window film that will prevent the store from getting so warm during the day.
"A lot of the merchants were trying to take advantage of this, so it's going to be a good thing for all of us," Pereira said.