Business

Some Collins Road businesses say big construction project slowing sales, others say they are weathering the challenge

Traffic rolls along Collins Road NE through the construction zone between Twixt Town NE and Lindale Drive NE in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Traffic rolls along Collins Road NE through the construction zone between Twixt Town NE and Lindale Drive NE in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS/MARION — “All Businesses Open” is the promise on the orange signs in the Collins Road NE construction zone. But the project to ease congestion in the densely developed commercial district has been affecting many of those businesses.

“We’re definitely down,” said Stacy Wolrab, owner of Scrapmania, 224 Collins Rd. NE. “People just have to remember we’re here during construction, or we’re not going to survive.”

Wolrab said this summer’s work along Collins Road hurt business at her store, which carries supplies for scrapbooking hobbyists.

She opened the location — her second after starting the business in Traer — in 2013.

“You can tell just by looking traffic is less,” Wolrab said. “I’d been hoping this was going to be a destination shop, but it’s hurting.”

“Everyone in this strip mall is seeing the effects of it,” said Michael Schmidt, manager at Cell Phone Repair, slightly east at 124 Collins Rd. NE. “Business is way down.”

“It’s definitely had an effect,” said Laurel Williams, who with her husband, Dion Williams, owns Great Harvest Bread Co. 5070 Lindale Dr. NE. “We’ve survived most of the worst of it because we have a very loyal clientele.”

‘Business is good’

Work began in March to widen Collins Road to three lanes from just east of Northland Avenue to Twixt Town Road, a stretch that carries about 30,000 vehicles per day.

The $9.6 million project to address perennial traffic issues disrupted usual flows to the busy commercial district that includes Lindale Mall, Collins Crossings and Collins Square, among other businesses.

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Some businesses weathered the first of what’s planned to be two construction seasons with minimal effect.

“I can’t say that there was really a big difference,” said Traci Olson, manager at the Earl May Nursery and Garden Center, 5155 Northland Ave. NE. “I heard people talking about it, but business is good.”

The project affected Happy Joe’s Pizza’s venue across from Lindale Mall “not at all,” manager David Ades said. “We had a good year.”

Williams said the project has taken a slice out of revenues at Great Harvest, which has been at the location next door for five years.

“Our loyal customers find us, but we don’t get the drive-by people,” she said. “I know other businesses have been hurt a lot more than we have.”

The road project is on schedule, according to Nate Kampman, Cedar Rapids city engineer. He said crews have completed the installation of new water mains and sanitary and storm sewer lines.

“That was a big accomplishment, to get that all completed this year,” Kampman said.

“The nice thing about getting the underground work out of the way is, a lot of times that’s where your unknowns are.”

Finishing water and sewer work required several overnight closures of Collins Road. Crews since have started paving along the road’s north side.

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“We also got a lot of our traffic signal work completed,” Kampman said. “They’re not operational, but the structure is there.”

Kampman expects the Twix Town Road intersection to be finished this fall.

“Maybe some landscaping as the weather allows,” he said. “All of that work is anticipated to be complete by the first of November. Then we’ll button up that project for the winter.

“We should be complete by the fall of 2019, which is exactly how we planned it.”

Traffic shifts

Maintaining access to neighboring businesses has complicated the project, Kampman said.

“But it’s important to us and to the businesses to keep things open,” he said. “We know it’s challenging to them, but we work hard to keep those accesses open.”

Kampman said there will be some traffic shifts next spring to accommodate paving and landscaping work.

The project also includes improved sidewalks and cycle trails that eventually will connect to the CEMAR Trail that links Marion and Cedar Rapids.

“One of the major goals of this project is to provide pedestrian access, better crossings, access for pedestrians and bikes,” Kampman said.

Scrapmania’s Wolrab looks forward to the improved traffic flows the project is promised to deliver, even as she keeps an anxious eye on her own business.

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“I know it’s necessary, but it’s such a big project that’s going to take so long,” Wolrab said.

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