Downtown detour draws complaints
A stop-work order issued nearly a month ago on the Three Crowns property on busy downtown West Venice Avenue has local merchants scratching their heads, wondering when the building rehabilitation will resume.
A separate walkway has been constructed, allowing pedestrians to bypass the construction site. But that’s not what’s happening, exactly. While locals traverse the site easily, business owners say they witness a steady stream of tourists who walk up to the construction site, look at it, then turn around, leaving a handful of businesses and restaurants west of the site in disbelief.
Anthony Liakakos, owner of Bridgetown Delicatessen and Market, estimated he’s lost half of his tourist traffic.
Luckily, Liakakos said, 70 percent of his business is preparing and delivering called-in lunches.
“It’s more of an eyesore than anything,” Liakakos said.
“It’s like being in Manhattan … with all the scaffolding.”
Doug and JoAnn Shelton, owners of Subs & Such Island Grill, said they’ve seen a 50 percent drop in traffic, and business.
“Someone should put a sign up” letting pedestrians know there are more businesses and eateries farther down the street, JoAnn Shelton said.
A number of business owners said they have heard rumblings of a petition being drawn up, directed at the city to see what can be done.
At this point the city has done what it can, for now. It placed a stop-work order on the site after an inspection almost a month ago, citing engineering plans that didn’t match what was constructed. The problem reportedly lies with the posts and steel beam securing the balcony over the sidewalk.
Charles Hager, of Charles Hager Construction Inc., who owns a gift shop nearby the Three Crowns, even offered to help the property owner, Elizabeth Castro.
Hager said it appears to be a case of a commercial property owner acting as a general contractor getting in over her head.
“I called her a month ago (after the first general contractor left) and said, ‘Bring me all your documents.’ I have a good relationship with the city. Venice has one of the best building departments in the state. I thought, if I can help her I will … to get her moving again,” Hager said.
Castro didn’t take Hager up on his offer, he said.
The city may have contributed to the problem by making the permit process more user friendly.
“Part of the problem I have is the city changed their procedures,” Hager said. “It used to be only a general contractor could submit a permit or document. The city would review the plans and go back to the GC with comments. The GC would go back to the architect, for example, (and make changes). That process was really helpful in building these projects. The procedure forces you to take an in-depth look at your plans.
“They now allow (property) owners to submit their own construction plans. I know what the learning process is during that permitting phase. In my opinion, it’s a huge mistake. There’s a reason why you need a GC.”
“Some of the (requirements) got overlooked,” Hager said. “And now she is shut down and it’s affecting all of us.”
“We know just by the people walking though our door, and not walking through our door, it’s affecting other businesses. People are getting fed up with it. The job is sitting still.”
Meanwhile, Castro reportedly is securing the services of another general contractor.
She didn’t return a phone call by the Gondolier Sun.