A major sewer reconstruction project has been underway here at Devon and Central avenues on Chicago's North Side since January. It’s brought traffic to a snarl and Edgebrook business owners say their revenues are drying up.
Wednesday morning Laura Gunther’s gift shop was completely empty. She says being in the construction zone, has brought business to a screeching to a halt.
"I just thought it would impact us for like a month or so," she said. "I didn’t realize it was going to be almost ten months of time."
The critical infrastructure project outside her shop is part of the city’s efforts to replace 90 miles of 100-year-old sewer lines each year.
“This is horrible for the retailer right now," said Barb Eastman, owner of Happy Foods. "Retail needs the foot traffic and the traffic and we’re not getting the traffic at all."
Last month, crews digging to bore underneath the metra tracks unexpectedly nicked a fiber optic cable buried more than 20 feet below the surface. No one seemed to know it was there. That forced a complete shutdown of construction.
“It’s a highly sensitive cable and it does run all the way up to Canada, and it was 'don’t touch it - back out let’s figure out how to rework this and go around it without destroying this cable,'” said Ald. Anthony Napolitano, 41st.
In a statement the department of water management says in part: “DWM was not notified of this cable’s presence. The communications utility owner is working to get the cable relocated as soon as possible.”
Bad news for business-owners who say their sales are already down 25-50 percent from this time last year.
“Every month it’s going down with the numbers and it’s just crazy," Ewa Ryan, owner of Pet Wants, said.
This past weekend aldermen negotiated narrowing the work area to open up parking on both sides of the street.
“But we need signage because no one knows this, plus there’s no one driving by to know the parking is there," Gunther said.
Some shopkeepers say they are trying to keep their heads above water.
“I can’t sleep at night," Ryan said. "Basically every night I have nightmares that I will not be able to stay here for too long.”
Meanwhile, 39th and 41st ward aldermen are urging residents in the area to rally around the local businesses.
It’s still unclear when construction will re-start. The project was supposed to be finished in September - but it may not be completed until November.