Change isn’t always easy.
That’s the message from Algonquin Village President John Schmitt, who said Main Street construction will end this year.
Although some business owners in downtown Algonquin are happy the area is getting a face-lift, the project is taking a toll on them.
“There’s a ton of people working on the site, literally late into the night,” said Albert Kraus, owner of Gold and Jewelry Direct, 130 S. Main St.
Construction in Old Town Algonquin began almost nine months ago to transform the 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 Main Street project is part of the larger $30 million downtown revitalization plan to spur development in the area.
Kraus said he’s suffered from a sharp decline in sales, but is happy the “speed of work” has picked up.
“I’m very happy with the progress, even though I was worried about it at the start,” he said. “But many people don’t want to come downtown because of the construction.”
Anthony Orlandino, owner of Anthony’s Barbershop, 150 S. Main St., said his older customers are having trouble navigating the area because it’s filled with tractors, roadblocks and detours.
“I’m almost 45 percent down since this started,” he said. “This is really hurting me. I don’t blame the contractors. I blame the village’s lack of communication with the public. They don’t put the proper signage out. ... It’s confusing.”
Schmitt said the village has done “everything that is physically and humanly possible to let residents know that our businesses are still open.”
“We have been advertising on our web page, we’ve put up a lot of signage, we’ve sent out emails to people saying that businesses are open,” he said.
To the frustration of many, including Schmitt, work on a downtown bridge is being pushed back.
The bridge on Main Street was set to be replaced, but that part of the project was put on hold because utilities weren’t moved from under the bridge on time, Schmitt said. The bridge is just south of Bold Algonquin Fare restaurant, 8 S. Main St., and Creekside Tap, 7 S. Main St.
“It’s going to be closed for quite a while,” Schmitt said, adding that it’s not clear how long it will remain closed. “We’re going to be doing construction very shortly.”
Schmitt said AT&T was told in early 2016 that it needed to move its lines.
“They just didn’t do it,” he said. “They have gone to bid on the project to move the lines.”
Kraus wants the bridge reopened.
“Christmas is coming, and in the retail business that’s huge for us,” he said. “The bridge is very crucial. It’s a tremendous issue. You won’t have a flow of traffic coming through.”
Schmitt said he’s committed to making Main Street as accessible as possible during this time.
“When Main Street is finished this year, we haven’t figured out exactly how we’re going to do it, but we will have access to both sides. We will have two-way traffic, but the bridge will still be closed,” he said. “We’re going to open it up so we have full traffic capability on Main Street.”
Despite the construction, the corridor is attracting new restaurants.
“It’s truly exciting,” Schmitt said. “It definitely ratifies all of the work that we’re doing in our downtown. ... It certainly is great news for our downtown.”
In the coming weeks, chef Santiago Suarez will open the Black Bear Bistro at 107 S. Main St.
Cattleman’s Burger and Brew, 205 S. Main St., is also expected to open in the coming weeks.
“It’s going to become much more of a destination area in our town, and that’s great,” he said. “Downtown Algonquin is important to the residents of Algonquin. To have it vibrant is very exciting for everybody.”
Schmitt said there are at least a half-dozen new establishments opening in the area, but he can’t reveal them, yet.
Established businesses are expanding, including Bold American Fare and Cucina Bella, 220 S. Main St.
“The pizza place next door moved out, so we purchased the location, and it’s either going to be private room space or extra seating,” said Patrick Bigoness, general manager of Cucina Bella. “Fridays and Saturdays, the last couple weeks, we’ve been three, four deep at the bar with an hour wait. Construction hasn’t been hurting us too bad.”
Bigoness said he believes the increased sidewalk space when the project is finished “will look wonderful” and could allow the restaurant to have a patio.