Before we reopen Main Street to traffic this weekend and things start to get back to normal, we’ll take some time to mark this milestone in Middlebury’s history with a late afternoon/early evening block party right in the heart of downtown Middlebury from 4 PM – 8 PM. It’s an opportunity to show your support for our downtown community. Spend $25 or more at any one of our downtown stores, all of which will be open, and enter for a chance to win a grand prize of $500 in Middlebury Money, a second prize of $250, and five runner-up prizes of $50. Special note to Mom and Dad: Bring the Kids! Kubricky will set up an excavator right in the Merchants Row/Main Street intersection. The National Bank of Middlebury will give away kid hard hats and kids can have their picture taken in the cab of the excavator. Live music, food, and plenty of community spirit round out the picture.
Report from the Marble Works. Yesterday I began reporting on how our Main Street and Merchants Row businesses are doing during the construction. On Tuesday I talked with several folks in the Marble Works. Here’s what I heard. Robin at Round Robin and John at Stone Leaf Teahouse both felt that the weeklong closing of Printer’s Alley to pedestrian traffic had a noticeable impact on business. They depend on foot traffic. The folks at Noonie’s Deli told me that they have been “really busy, busier than usual.” Carolyn at Costello’s reported that during the first week of construction business was down a little but it then picked up the in the second week, in part, she told me, because they made the Bread Loaf School of English’s list of Top 10 things to do in Middlebury. Chris at Marble Works Pharmacy told me that, with so much construction around town, home delivery had been the challenge for them. At American Flatbread, Danielle said that their weekends had been consistent with last year and that they have been very busy during the week. Finally, Barbara at Otter Creek Used Books said that business had been down a little with Printer’s Alley closed but she was not discouraged and her half-off sale, which continues through this week, is bringing folks into the store. (BTW today I bought the slipcase edition of Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet that I mentioned in an earlier update, as a reminder of this project and the many new friends I’ve made.) Here’s a comment I heard from many: “It is what it is, it has to be done.” And everyone (including me) is scratching their heads at the Printer’s Alley Detour signs. Clearly that should have read Marble Works Detour. I’ll get that fixed in future. And I’ll report more business results from Merchants Row in an upcoming update.
Dining at The Diner. Meanwhile I know that The Diner is struggling with the lack of parking at the top of Merchants Row. Many of their regulars aren’t making it in and business is well off. If you can, please try to stop by for breakfast, lunch, or even a cup of coffee to show your support. You can take the ACTR downtown shuttle from the Town Pool starting at 8 AM, be at the P.O. in 10 minutes, and walk across the Village Green to The Diner.
Traffic Report. Traffic downtown has settled somewhat since we closed Merchants Row last Thursday, but it can back up during lunchtime and the evening commute. Cross Street is flowing pretty well. The challenge is getting around Court Square, where traffic comes in from Washington Street and South Pleasant Street, and through the southern part of town on Route 7. It could take a good 10-12 minutes during prime time to travel from the light at Maplefields north of town down to the light at Hannaford. Not exactly a Cross Bronx Expressway traffic backup but I know this can be frustrating for those of us who are used to getting around town quickly. Leave a little more time in your schedule if you can. Only 3 more days until Main Street reopens. And try to avoid a left-hand turn onto Cross Street from South Pleasant Street. That’s just going to tie traffic up and frustrate you.
Tuesday Wrap-Up. Final grading and compacting of the approaches to the Main Street Bridge took place on Tuesday in preparation for paving on Wednesday (see photo). Over on Merchants Row, Kubricky began assembling the Mabey bridge on the eastern roadway in front of Bourdon Insurance.
What’s on Tap Wednesday. Vermont paving subcontractor Hutchinson arrives early Wednesday morning to begin paving the approaches to the Main Street Bridge, starting on the southern roadway and moving north during the day to the Post Office side. There will be quite a few trucks moving in and out of the construction zone. On Merchants Row, Kubricky plans to finish assembling the Mabey bridge and clear remaining debris from the western roadway so that they can begin backfilling that area.
Downtown Information Booth Lineup for Wednesday. Staffing the Middlebury Rail & Bridge Project information booth in Cannon Park on Wednesday are Janet Winkler (10-12), Sue Hoxie (12-2), and Deb Hillman (2-4). The Info Booth will stay open during Wednesday’s Downtown Block Party. Stop by and say hello to Baishakhi Taylor, Dean of Students at Middlebury College, who will be showcasing all the great info on our town available at the booth during the Block Party.
Our Project Is Challenging Kubricky, Too. We tend to focus on the hardship that this construction project has brought to our town. Wrapping up today’s update, I want to point that for Kubricky, too, this is a demanding project. Quite apart from the complex technical and coordination challenges involved, this construction crew is now in its third week of working 12-15 hour days, six days a week, through hot summer sun and pouring rain, doing tough work. They are professionals, this is what they do. They are also people with families and homes of their own. They understand the importance of community. They are doing their best to make this project work for us, and they appreciate it when you greet them with a smile and a wave.
See you downtown.
Please keep your comments and questions coming. Send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll try to cover it in my next update.