St. Paul Street construction delayed again, businesses frustrated

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Construction is causing more delays and frustrations for businesses on St. Paul Street in Burlington.

Eleven months into what one business says was supposed to be a four-month construction project and they’re still dealing with closed streets.

The city calls this an infrastructure investment that needs to happen. But the owner of the Perky Planet coffee shop says the year of road work is taking its toll.

The sights and sounds of construction on St. Paul Street have become the norm for more than a year. It's not the ambiance shop owner Richard Vaughn envisioned when he opened his doors to customers.

"A coffee shop lives or dies by traffic or convenience, we don't have either," he said.

He says it's been a struggle since he first opened.

"If the city of Burlington set out to destroy a business, they couldn't have done it any better than what they've currently done," Vaughn said.

But the city says it’s trying to help during construction because they don’t want businesses like Perky Planet close.

"We've had a promotion in place to provide free and discounted parking right around the corner. We have also had the contractor working most if not all weekends to try to get this thing done quickly," said Burlington Director of Public Works Chapin Spencer.

On February 11, the Burlington City Council approved a new budget for the St. Paul Street project to just over $3.5 million, that’s $200,000 more.

City officials say there were three key challenges which caused the delays and extra cost: soil conditions, an unexpected underground storage tank and getting utilities underground.

"We are not just putting a new layer of asphalt that we are going to rip up when we have to replace the water line. This is a complete bottom-up reconstruction of St. Paul Street," said Spencer.

But because foot traffic is harder to come by when sidewalks and streets are closed, Perky Planet is turning to the internet to offset losses. They are now selling their roasted coffee online.

"We just started a subscription service for our roasted coffee that we roast in house," said Vaughn.

It’s a strategy he hopes will pay off so they can survive construction.

The city sent out an email Monday announcing new completion dates. The upper block has been moved up to August 23 and the lower block has been pushed back to September 20.