College Avenue construction causes business closings

photos by Ryan Marx
Alex Lindgren-Gibson and Meg Schultz

photos by Ryan Marx

Construction on College Ave. and the associated decrease in sales has forced many businesses to close. Stores in the College Avenue Mall, the Younkers building, and other establishments along College Ave. west of Lawrence are among those affected. Starting March 23, College Ave. will be closed completely, except for select cross streets. The work will progress from the intersection of Richmond Ave. and College Ave. and move east toward Lawrence.

Construction is scheduled to end in late August. The project is intended to stimulate business and attract pedestrians to the area.

Businesses already on College Avenue, however, may feel more of the negative effects of construction than the positive effects of a redeveloped downtown.

The manager of Jerry’s Tobacco and Book Shop has seen a definite decrease in business, although he cannot be sure if it is from the weakened economy or the construction.

Ron Teske, owner of Dr. Jekyll’s Bar, has seen no decrease in business. He says that although there have been closings, “the city is doing everything they can to make sure businesses stay open”.

Teske added that there has been an increase in upscale bars and eateries on College Ave. The introduction of Dj… Vu, a martini bar, and Mill Creek Pub, which features out-of-town blues acts, has brought a new, “upscale” clientele to the avenue which could increase business for the other establishments.

Teske says it is too soon to tell what effects construction on College Ave. will have on his business and others.

The downtown developments to attract a wider range of clientele is predicted to cost $6.3 million, $1.4 million of which will be used to fund the new streetscape, complete with more benches and wider sidewalks. The new streetscape is intended to make the avenue much more pedestrian-friendly.

This development, coined the “business recruitment program,” has caught the attention of a larger business that has an interest in the downtown renovations. SBC Ameritech has donated $15,000 towards the construction, hoping, along with all the other College Ave. businesses dependent upon this investment, that they will reap the benefits of an Appleton renaissance.

Some stores along College are moving for other reasons. Rose Prehall, a former Younkers employee, said the store was forced to close because it “couldn’t compete with itself.” There is another Younkers location at the Fox River Mall, which gets most of the business. Some residents of Appleton were upset by this move, which will force them to go to the Fox River Mall for clothes and other items.

Signs of change. Avenue businesses feel the pinch as College Ave. renovation project draws near.