Planning, cooperation key to surviving construction

By: 
Chuck Kajer, The New Prague Times

In about a year, the landscape of New Prague’s Main Street will be changing.
A major reconstruction of State Highway 19 - New Prague’s Main Street - will take place next summer. Beginning from just west of the stoplights at 10th Avenue on the east side to the four-way stop intersection with Highway 21 on the west side, the entire pavement will be removed, underground utilities - many of which are 100 years old - will be replaced, including connections into buildings, and a new roadway will be put in place - hopefully to last another 100 years.
It will have been 30 years since the last downtown Streetscape project of 1990, when roads and sidewalks were rebuilt. Back then, downtown businesses faced months of hardship as customers did not always have easy access to these businesses. They also worked together to promote the downtown area during the project.
While much has changed in the past 30 years - most notably the shift in retail from the downtown area to the east side - There are still a number of businesses on New Prague’s Main Street that rely on foot traffic and adequate parking.
Last week, the New Prague Economic Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce met with representatives from the City of St. Peter, which saw a similar major reconstruction project in 2009. They talked about preparation, planning and investment in a marketing plan that helped promote businesses in the downtown area. While individual businesses were all impacted to different degrees, the downtown area survived intact - not one business went under as a result of the construction project - this during a time when the economy was struggling nationwide.
The St. Peter efforts relied a great deal on communication… Knowing what was coming, when it was coming and how each businesses would be affected. They shared ideas at the meeting that New Prague could follow and offered advice on how to assist businesses that may face hardships.
Their message: You need to own this. It won’t do any good to complain. Get in front of the problems that you’re going to face and plan ahead to make the best of it.

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