Main St. Still Undergoing Renovations, Local Businesses Likely to Feel Pinch

Downtown Andover is getting made over. As part of a two-year plan, the Town of Andover is renovating downtown Main Street to make the area friendlier to pedestrians and vehicles, said Town Planner Lisa Schwarz. CVS Pharmacy has recently doubled in size. So far, a new section has been added on to the original space, and the store now features a new handicap-accessible ramp as well. Within the next two years of construction, crosswalks and traffic lights will also be updated to ensure public safety. The crosswalks will be repainted in busy intersections such as Memorial Hall Library and Elm Square. There will also be new walk buttons and audio signals at the crosswalks. The traffic signals will be synchronized throughout Main Street to move traffic safely and efficiently and will also be linked to the police and fire departments in case of emergencies. The town also plans to add better street lighting to its historical streetlights. Sidewalks will be repaved, new trees will be planted and park benches will be added to create a friendlier and more attractive atmosphere. Main Street has never been renovated before. The idea for the project originated in 1997. It was not until 2001 that the project really got underway. The town formed a committee to work with engineers to develop the plans. The committee secured funding for the project in 2006 and finally approved the construction contract in July 2007. Ninety-five percent of the project is funded by the state and federal government. The remaining expenses will be paid by the town. The town hopes to provide a construction schedule for the stores and businesses so that they will know when construction will occur in front of their stores and can plan accordingly. Schwarz said that the construction might cause some inconveniences for townspeople and local businesses on Main Street. “I think it will be difficult [for the stores] when there are [construction workers] working directly in front of a building. It blocks the entrance and takes up a lot of parking space,” Schwarz said. “I will survive, but anyone who is struggling right now will probably fail,” said Debbie Lane, owner of the Andover Gift Shop. “Business will be down for everyone, but there is nothing we can do.” Lane is planning around the scheduled challenge by having fewer employees in her shop and by bringing in more exotic products from places such as Thailand and China to “keep things interesting and different,” she said. Lane said she is somewhat opposed to the renovations. “Andover isn’t really a touristy place. We don’t need antique lighting or brick crosswalks,” she said. Employees at Strawberry Tree, a gift shop, are also not looking forward to the construction but are hopeful that business will remain strong in the long-run. Strawberry Tree hopes to attract customers during the construction period by holding sales and providing discounts. Schwarz strongly encourages students to continue supporting the shops downtown despite the construction. “It is more important now to patronize the businesses than ever. We don’t want them to go out of business,” she said. According to Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski, most of the construction work was planned to occur during July and August, “when things are slow and people are usually on vacation,” he said. Schwarz said, “[Main Street is going to] look very barren and ugly. Also, the construction will also take up some parking spaces, and parking is already tight in the downtown area.” So far, some trees have been wrapped with wooden boards to protect them from the construction equipment. Other trees have been marked to be cut down. Contractors and construction workers have already begun to work on the drainage system.