Road construction has Rock Hill market over an (orange) barrel

adouglas@heraldonline.comDecember 8, 2012 

The family who operates the Saltwater Seafood Market on West White Street in Rock Hill says a road project underway has softened their bottom line.

Manager Chau Nguyen and his son, Tony Nguyen, estimate they lost $5,000 in one week before Thanksgiving. On the market’s busiest days – Friday and Saturday – the Nguyens say they usually bring in about $2,500 each day.

“If (customers) don’t find their way in, they just turn around and go home,” Tony Nguyen said. “It just really hurts our business a lot.”

West White Street off Dave Lyle Boulevard near downtown Rock Hill has been closed since October. It will temporarily reopen at the end of December for about two months.

City officials have tried to help, Chau Nguyen says, but the construction makes customers think they can’t get to the market from Dave Lyle Boulevard.

Drivers can reach the market by driving around several blocks and through the Cotton Factory’s parking lot, which would take them about a half-mile out of the way.

While most of their customers are local residents who might be familiar with detour options, the Nguyens say, but their losses in November indicate many find it too difficult to navigate through or around the construction zone.

Construction on the first block of West White Street – which connects Dave Lyle Boulevard to North Wilson Street – should be finished by July. Workers will then move down the street toward Winthrop University.

Once work is finished in the Textile Corridor, city spokeswoman Katie Quinn said, the Seafood Market’s business could actually see an increase in customers.

“The goal of public investment is to encourage additional investment from the private sector,” she said. “And we're confident that this overall project will have a positive effect on all properties along White Street.”

Pennies for Progress – York County’s road-building program that is paid for by one cent on the sales tax – is paying for the bulk of the West White Street construction work. York County voters approved the project as part of the 2003 Pennies program.

About $195,000 in tax money collected from businesses and individuals in Rock Hill’s “Textile Corridor” also is going toward the construction.

The owner of Credit Automotive Center – a used car lot a block away from the Seafood Market – says he hasn’t noticed a drop in business since the start of road construction.

The car lot has three driveways – one on White Street, which is closed during road work, and two on North Wilson Street, which are still open.

The city paid Credit Automotive about $49,000 for a strip of right-of-way land needed to widen West White Street and bury power lines.

“I thought they made me a fair deal,” said Jeff Rhodes, owner of the car lot.

Road work has slightly limited the lot space he has to display vehicles, Rhodes said, but he expects operations will return to normal once workers move farther down the road.

Once the project’s finished, West White Street will be wider in some places, with sidewalks and streetscaping added.

Swapping out the orange construction barriers for a newly-paved road could help in the long run, Tony Nguyen said.

“Appearance-wise, it’s going to attract more customers,” he said.

The road work seems to be moving quickly, the Nguyens said, but the construction hurt business just before Thanksgiving – a time the Seafood Market is usually at its busiest.

To help the market, the city paid for and hung a banner that says “open during construction,” on the side of the market building facing Dave Lyle Boulevard.

The city also is putting a notice in the Old Town newsletter reminding people that the market is still open. City officials say the newsletter reaches about 5,000 people around downtown Rock Hill.

Tony Nguyen called city officials the first week of November, he said, to ask for money from the city to compensate for the lost business during road work. A city employee stopped by the Seafood Market a couple of days later and talked to the Nguyens.

After the conversation with the city employee, the family was hopeful, Tony Nguyen said, that the market would be reimbursed, at least in part.

But Rock Hill does not reimburse businesses for financial loss caused by nearby road work, Quinn said.

“City staff offered (to the Nguyen’s) to research any options available through the Uniform Relocation Act regarding reimbursement for loss of business during construction,” Quinn said. “So far, we've found that there's no opportunity for compensation through the uniform act or South Carolina state law.”

Rock Hill and York County follow the Uniform Relocation Act, a state law used to determine how much money businesses or individuals should receive when their land is needed during road construction or improvements.

State law requires that local governments provide compensation for land needed during road or utility projects and pay relocation costs for businesses or people displaced by construction.

Road and utility work is under way on a strip of right-of-way land next to the Seafood Market. The city will pay $11,800 to the market’s property owner, Frank Phung.

The city’s compensation for the right-of-way strip is fair, Phung said, but he said he’s aware the road work has hurt the market’s business.

But compensation for the land won’t help the business they’ve lost, the Nguyens said, because that money will stay with the property owner.

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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