IT'S ROUGH ROAD NOW, BUT BUSINESSES CAN SURVIVE

August 21, 2001 11:00 pm

If misery loves company, then the merchants along Cove Avenue and Albany Street have plenty of sympathetic ears among business owners on Adams Avenue in downtown La Grande.

Fifteen years ago the Oregon Department of Transportation rebuilt La Grandes main highway through town. The concrete construction project, which included the installation of brick crosswalks, seemed to take forever to complete.

Adams Avenue merchants had to wait patiently while the street work was being finished. Merchants suffered when customers were cut off from direct access to Adams, and had to park on side streets to access the stores.

Businesses on Albany Street and Cove Avenue, just south of Island Avenue, are suffering through the same sense of isolation from customers while their streets are being resurfaced this summer. And merchants are not liking it very much.

It does not help to tell these business owners how wonderful it will be when their streets are refinished and customers and everyone else finds them attractive. Meanwhile, the merchants dont want customers to forget them. They hope customers will find their way to the businesses using alternate routes. Detours to the area include 21st Street on both sides of Cove Avenue, Portland Street to Penn Avenue and on to Albany Street, and along Willow Street, O Avenue and Hall Street to Cove Avenue.

It might have been better for the city to pave Cove Avenue first, and Albany Street awhile later. But officials determined it would be better to bite the bullet and complete the construction, including underground utility work, as one continuing project. The street work is well under way and should be wrapped up in November.

If Adams Avenue businesses could survive their major construction project in 1986-87, then the merchants on Albany Street and Cove Avenue can do the same, but only if customers are kind enough to not forget them, but go a little out of their way to find them.

GETTING WORD OUT

One of the great things about living in a smaller community like La Grande is the partnership that can exist between local government and business.

That connection is seen in the ads that the City of La Grande has placed in The Observer acknowledging the hardships that merchants on Cove Avenue and Albany Street have experienced because of the reconstruction work on the streets. The ad, touting Open for Business as Usual, lists the merchants that are affected by the street work. It also provides a map showing alternative routes to these businesses. One of the ads appeared on Page 3B of Tuesdays paper.

By placing these ads, the city is showing it can be a good neighbor. It wants the merchants to still be in business once the work is finished.