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Stores say construction is blocking business

Published On: Jul 28 2013 12:56:08 AM CDT

A new pedestrian overpass will eventually bridge bikers from one side of Madison's beltline highway to the other.

However, businesses around the construction say the work is robbing them of potential customers.

Don's Home Furniture CEO Blaine Neupert has discount tags on almost everything in the store, all marked down for a "construction sale."

The beginning of a bike path and all of the equipment working on it sits right in front of his windows, and more importantly, his signs.

"One of the reasons I decided to move here was because of the extremely large amount of visibility that's afforded because of the cars. That's why a lot of businesses move to this 'miracle mile,' so to speak," Neupert said.

Neupert said 20 to 25 percent of customers come into the store just because they see signs while they’re driving. He dealt with a similar construction set-up last year when the city was putting in transmission lines.

Neupert said with all of the restrictions Madison puts on signage, it’s hard to maintain the level of visibility that he’s used to when projects are going on right in front of the store.

"It's not that Madison is a bad place to do business," Neupert said. "It's just that Madison makes it difficult sometimes to do business."

District 14 alder John Strasser is pushing for more overpasses like the multimillion dollar bike bridge project, which will link communities in his district.

"I know that, how isolating the beltline can make a neighborhood feel," Strasser said. "So anything we can do to knit the neighborhoods back together is an improvement when you're talking about community development."

While Strasser has not heard any concerns about the construction, he noticed Neupert’s complaints posted to the city’s website.

In response to Neupert’s worries for his business’s visibility, the city said engineers and planning staff are working with stores in the area, but "the range of options is pretty limited."

"Now that we're actually in the construction period, to try to address, to try to make any tweaks in the plan, just becomes virtually impossible," Strasser explained.

The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

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