Downtown Glendale stores blame road work for losses

In the 28 years Ruben Minassian has owned a sandwich shop on North Central Avenue, business has never been tougher, he said, than during Glendale's current residential building boom.

To accommodate recent growth and the slow rise of several new downtown apartment buildings, city officials in January launched a $7.5-million street improvement project along Central Avenue, prompting lane closures from Colorado Street to Glenoaks Boulevard.

Minassian's Sandwiches by Big Bite sits smack in the middle of it — and right next to Lex on Orange, an upscale 300-unit complex under construction at the northeast corner of Central and Lexington Drive.

Business at Big Bite dropped off nearly 40% after lane closures for road work and apartment construction began, he said. It slowed to a crawl this summer while the city replaced sidewalks to widen parts of Central.

New apartments may bring new customers, "if I can stay alive," Minassian said. "It's already seven months now."

Lucy Vorperian Shebat, owner of both Mattress Star and Glendale Mattress Clearance Store in the 200 block of North Central Avenue, blamed roadwork for a 30% drop in business.

"Everywhere it's a mess," she said. "Customers get frustrated. They don't use Central anymore."

Officials say road work will end soon, but only after intensifying over the next three weeks.

Improvements to Central Avenue are expected to wrap up as early as October, said Roubik Golanian, Glendale's acting director of public works.

Replacement of damaged concrete pavement is complete. New curbs, sidewalks, light poles, traffic signals, fiber-optic cables and a landscaped median between the Glendale Galleria and the Americana at Brand have already been installed, Golanian said.

But on Monday, workers will begin grinding existing asphalt and resurfacing Central between Broadway and the Ventura (134) Freeway, prompting additional closures that in some places could reduce traffic flow to one lane in each direction, according to Golanian.

That work will last through Sept. 12, after which lanes will reopen to traffic, he added.

On the block of Wilson Avenue between Central and Orange Street, work unrelated to the larger street improvement project has also been a challenge, businesspeople said.

Earlier this year, Glendale Water & Power installed a new water main to serve a 238-unit apartment complex being built there, and construction workers have been intermittently closing lanes on Wilson during construction.

The project's developer has applied for a permit to continue lane closures for up to six months, Golanian said.

Aida Balian, owner of Tip Top Shoe Repair, filed an administrative claim against the city last month seeking compensation for revenue lost during roadwork. However, she declined to be interviewed.

Traffic delays, reduced street parking and use of a corner parking lot as a construction staging area appears to be taking a 30% bite out of business at nearby Kozy Korner Thai Cuisine, worker Obb Kumpangthong said.

A few doors down, some customers are avoiding Don's Cleaners because they don't want to lug their laundry from nearby parking lots on Orange Street, manager Paul Chang said.

Construction on Wilson "seems a little off-putting," Kozy Korner customer Valerie Vigoda said. "If I weren't specifically coming here, I wouldn't have turned down this block."


Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.


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