Fifth Street Businesses Frustrated Over Continued Loss Of Business

Reporter: James Gherardi l Videographer: Levi Washburn

Lynchburg, VA - For almost a year now, phase two of the Fifth Street construction project between Harrison and Main Streets has disrupted traffic. Tuesday, many business owners, who are frustrated at the pace of the project, let city officials know about it.

Businesses agreed to the construction years ago. But they say back then, they had no idea what was in store. Staying afloat has been more than challenging ever since.

In 2005 when she bought the James River Conference Center, Debby Ruffin says she couldn't have asked for a better location.

"We join the Rivermont area, the downtown area, and the midtown area, all kind of meet right here," she said.

But today, the conference center sits at the main artery of Fifth Street construction to widen and beautify the corridor and update utility infrastructure.

"We didn't expect it to take as long as it's taking and we didn't expect it to tear up and disrupt the traffic flows and the business flow as much as it has," said Ruffin.

Since construction began, Ruffin's income has plummeted.

"My revenue is way off. We're concerned. How are we going to pay our bills? How are we going to stay in business?" she said.

City officials and project coordinators presented the future of the project to a crowd of Fifth Street merchants. Officials say they're doing all they can to boost business.

"Bagging the light, traffic control, things like that which are in our capabilities of doing, we are definitely trying to do that," said City Planner Tom Martin.

Kurt Schulz, owner of a dance studio on the street, is excited for Fifth Street's future.

"If people just give 5th street a chance, drive down and see what has been done, go to the turnabout, look at the bricks that have been laid, the sidewalks, it's beautiful," he said.

But beauty hasn't brought business just yet.

"I am so ready for this project to be gone; I don't know what to do," said Ruffin.

But they have a long way to go. Phase Two of construction is expected to be complete about a full year from now. That's when phase three of the project moves further down the street.