Three Times Square business owners voiced their frustration with the town council Monday because they say they were left out of the new Times Square design discussions.
The town is inching closer toward a major multi-million dollar renovation to Times Square that will result in a facelift that includes; drainage improvements, a new stage, better cover from the elements for restaurant customers and improvements to what used to be a road but is now a not-so-level pedestrian walkway.
Pete’s Time Out owner John Lallo said the Times Square merchants have not been consulted about the project since an initial workshop when ideas were being discussed. Mango Rita’s owner Jason Ingream agreed, stating that the business owners were part of the project at the beginning but as it moved forward they were not involved and he said he’d like to be.
Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros did not take kindly to the criticism from the business owners. “We took a lot of flack from you in public comment today. I’m always in favor of talking to the businesses. What I would like to say back to you….at the workshop where the businesses were present, none of you agreed about anything. Talk amongst yourselves and come to us with a more united set of suggestions. When I left that meeting I felt like we couldn’t please you because no-one agreed with anyone else. If you all disagree it’s not helpful.”
Mayor Ray Murphy said this is the second major project for Times Square, the first being closing down the road that is now the walkway through the square. “We made it through. It wasn’t easy but the rewards were there. It was a tough project but the benefits far outweighed the inconveniences. And I have the same feeling about this project. It’s going to be a tremendous benefit, not only for the people of the town and all the businesses but all the people that are going to come and enjoy this. It’s going to be fantastic.”
Drainage repairs are expected to take 5 weeks and will be done during a slow time for the businesses. The entire project should take about 8 months from start to completion at a cost of about $2.5 million. The town is borrowing $10 million for this project, along with the Bay Oaks and Bayside park projects.
The council unanimously approved moving the project to the final stage of design at a cost not to exceed $179,550. Town Manager Roger Hernstadt said there will be time along the way, during the design of the project, for additional input.
While a solid start date for the project is unknown at this point, Hernstadt said the plan is to move full speed ahead.