Business owners have to grin and bear it along Calle Chino

A.M. Costa Rica/Kalya Pearson
Shoppers have to negotiate piles of dirt, heavy machinery and gravel where sidewalks once were.

Business owners along Paseo de los Estudiantes say that the transformation of the boulevard to Calle Chino has caused them to suffer economically.

Walking along the construction site that will become Calle Chino is a chore. The stores located there generally report lower sales and other problems as a result of the construction. This is the former Paseo de los Estudiantes that is being turned into a pedestrian mall with financial support from the People’s Republic.

Since the construction started in February, many stores have seen a decrease in sales. This is mainly because customers are unable to freely walk up and down the street.

“At one time we couldn’t sell because of the construction,” said Keidy Fenseca at Expendio Bimbo, a convenience store on the walkway. “No persons could pass in front of our store.”

Persons who do brave the trip have to walk across uneven gravel, step over rocks and broken concrete and maneuver around workmen operating large pieces of machinery. This has store workers also worried about safety.

There is a lot of dust in the air from the work,” said José Miranda Vargas at the local optical store. “The whole thing is affecting the health of the people. ”

Many of the businesses have been in the area for more than a decade. For this reason it is important for the owners to persevere despite the obstacle.

Milenio, a 12-year-old store, has only closed three days out of the seven-month period. Employees have employed a
marketing strategy where they engage with pedestrians as they walk by to get them to come inside the store, said the cashier.

Despite the overall consensus of struggle, there are some stores that have witnessed no effect from the change. A string of new stores that opened two weeks ago in the first block of the boulevard has had success from the attraction of the new archway, said an employee at Eskimo ice cream shop.

Also specialty stores such as Macrobiotica Consultorio Homeopático has not had any changes in business. This is linked to the fact that the store is a doctor’s office and has a database of frequent clients, said Leticia Bookles.

However, not every store has been this lucky, and two stores in the same block as the Consultorio closed permanently two months ago, she said.

Nevertheless, things are getting better as the parts are completed, and shop personnel are confident that in the end business will be higher than before.

“Once people have the opportunity to walk and see the stores, they will come,” said Martha Alvares Garcia at Lavanderia La Renaciente, a dry cleaning store.

The project is being strongly backed by San José Mayor Johnny Araya with funding from the People’s Republic of China. Completion is expected in February.

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