Although Old Town Algonquin is getting a much-needed face-lift, some area business owners and residents are ready for Main Street construction to end.
Construction began in February to transform the Main Street corridor into a “beautiful, pedestrian-friendly environment while helping to preserve the character and history of the area,” according to project information on the village’s website.
Streets affected are South Main, North Main, Washington and Harrison. The bridge at Village Hall, 2 S. Main St., also will be replaced.
However, the noise, dust and confusion are hurting local businesses, some owners have said.
“We’ve lost 60 percent of revenue in the last three months,” said Albert Kraus, owner of Gold and Jewelry Direct, 130 S. Main St. “The signage is poorly done, and people are confused whether or not the downtown is open, and where to park.”
Other area entrepreneurs expressed similar concerns.
“There’s less people walking by, and people can’t drive by,” said Andrea Eichenold, owner of Peace Offerings gift shop, 214 S. Main St. “People used to go back and forth all day long.”
Eichenold said she fears continued losses could threaten her business.
“It’s pretty sad,” she said. “It’s too depressing to even look at. Everybody on the street is frustrated. It’s crazy.”
Anthony Orlandino, owner of Anthony’s Barbershop, 150 S. Main St., said the village needs better signs to direct traffic and inform motorists of key parking spaces.
“Two weeks ago, I had four guys – I do a lot of seniors here in the barbershop – and all four of them ironically were 89 years old. They had to park blocks away. Two of the guys had walkers, and in this terrain, it’s impossible,” he said. “They don’t know how to get here because the signage completely [stinks].”
Orlandino said he has made his concerns regarding parking and confusing traffic and road signs known to village officials.
“They refuse to listen to me. It’s killing me. I’ve got seniors who will go someplace else because they can’t walk here,” he said. “I’m not complaining about the construction, because what they’re doing is going to be pretty good. ... I have a problem with the signage.”
Area resident Derrick Hill said he’s sick of noise, dust and frustrated motorists who speed through detours.
“It’s an inconvenience,” he said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Hill’s fiancée, Wendy Hollister, joked that it feels like the construction began in 1847.
“People fly through here,” she said, adding that she worries about her kids crossing the streets.
When construction is complete, the hope is that residents will benefit from a number of improvements: electrical upgrades that will provide safer electric services, lead pipe replacements that provide cleaner water, utility lines placed underground that allow trees to grow naturally, new sidewalks, traffic-calming enhancements that improve pedestrian safety, and decorative lighting and furniture to create an inviting atmosphere, according to the village.
Construction is expected to continue through the end of the year.
The Main Street project is part of the larger $30 million downtown revitalization plan to spur development in Old Town Algonquin.
It aims to be a “vision to accommodate continued development while maintaining and enhancing the characteristics of the area,” according to the village website.
Algonquin Village President John Schmitt said village staff have been responding to the concerns of business owners and have augmented signage. He said the village also facilitates weekly construction meetings for anyone affected by it.
“This isn’t just paving,” he said. “This is a very significant project.”