NEW ORLEANS - Zito's Plating and Polishing has been in business on Banks Street for 67 years. But owner Henry McCloskey may have to change the way he operates because of a road construction project on his street.
'Business has really dropped off since this construction started here,' he said. 'We get the older customers who will call up and say 'Henry, we can't get to your shop because the street is all torn up.''
The construction spans on a six-block stretch of Banks Street from S. Carrollton to S. St. Patrick. It's part of the federally funded Paths to Progress project, aimed at rehabilitating local roadways.
And since it got underway in November, businesses have taken a major hit. Business is down as much as 40 percent, according to Councilwoman Susan Guidry, District A.
'When you come down the street, and try to come to local businesses and you can't pass through, that deters a lot of people from coming out,' said Richard Fendly, owner of Banks Street Bar and Grill.
Neighbors say navigating the stretch of Banks Street can be confusing because some lanes are closed on both sides, and some areas are shut down completely.
'It's pretty hard to get around,' said Mid-City resident Meghan Carter.
'It's just uncomfortable and it looks like a mess,' said Monica Cammack, Mid-City homeowner. 'It's ugly, it's orange, it's busy, it's detours.'
'All of the streets in this whole area are pretty bad so this being one of the main thoroughfares, this is a street that a lot of people drive down often,' said Mid-City resident Lisa Casper. 'So having to go down all the side streets is quite difficult with all of the dips and bumps.'
Business owners say one of the most frustrating parts is they weren't included in the planning process or even given notice.
'I don't think anybody around here knew they were going to start this construction on the street,' said McCloskey. 'I couldn't figure out why they had to do both sides at one time.'
Now, McCloskey is considering offering a pick up and delivery service until the project is complete to keep customers who don't want to navigate the road construction.
The project is scheduled to be complete in March, weather permitting.
Crews can't pave if it's colder than 50 degrees because the asphalt won't set properly, said Guidry.
Guidry recently held a meeting with representatives from the Orleans Parish Sewerage & Water Board, the Paths to Progress project manager, the general contractor and businesses.
In the meeting, Paths to Progress representatives explained they are doing the project now because they needed to use the federal money or they would lose it.
On Monday, Guidry asked people to support businesses in the area on her Facebook page.
'Please make a special effort to visit and support these businesses and encourage friends and neighbors to stop by to help keep these Banks Street merchants open for business!' said the post, in part.
Officials with the Louisiana Department of Transportation did not respond to our request for comment.
This story was developed with our partners at www.midcitymessenger.com.