The business of helping businesses

When 22 buildings in downtown Greenwood have their storefronts restored, city officials want to make sure the construction stays on schedule and that customers know the businesses are open and how to get inside.

Before the work starts, the property owners, contractors and the city will sign contracts that detail deadlines and the work that will be done, which will bring downtown Greenwood back to a look reminiscent of the 1930s and hopefully prompt a surge in development and draw shoppers.

The agreements also will detail how the city and contractors will help the businesses remain open during construction that might require portions of a sidewalk around a store entrance to be closed, city of Greenwood project manager John Shell said.

“Every building owner and business is excited because the façade project is a benefit to their look,” Shell said. “But there is concern. The city is aware there is going to be concern. And not every day will be smooth. But the city is in the business of helping businesses here in town.”

Franklin had some of the issues the city of Greenwood is trying to avoid when it completed a similar restoration project of eight downtown façades in 2014. The work was finished a year later than the city had initially planned.

Contractors were fired after they weren’t showing up on a regular basis, and the project stalled until new contractors were hired to finish the job.

The project in Greenwood could take 12 to 18 months once contractors are hired in November. But the city has talked with officials from Franklin to understand how issues arose during the project and how to avoid similar problems.

“Speaking with officials, we found out some of Franklin’s issues were due to lack of communication,” Shell said. “They didn’t necessarily tell us which contractor to hire or which contractor to avoid. They just expressed the importance of communicating expectations prior to the project and that they understand plans and the schedule. You have to have reasonable expectations.”

The project to restore the 22 façades in downtown Greenwood will cost $1.1 million. The building owners who chose to participate will combine to pay for almost $200,000 of the cost, with the city’s redevelopment commission paying for the bulk of the project. The city also received a $400,000 grant from the state.

Each building owner in downtown Greenwood had to contribute 20 percent of the cost of the work done to that façade. For a few owners, that investment is close to $20,000, Shell said.

The city wants to make sure that every owner who invested money into the restoration project has a say in how and when the work will be done. The city will work with contractors to plan which buildings are worked on at certain times depending on when the businesses are the most busy, Shell said. But the overall goal for the city and the contractors when working on these negotiations is ensuring a safe way to get in and out of a store or restaurant while construction is ongoing, he said.

“I’m the advocate for the building owners,” Shell said.

“I’m talking to contractors and architects on a daily basis, communicating expectations, making sure designs look as planned and looking at the construction schedule and making sure it will be safe for pedestrian traffic and won’t close any access to businesses.”

Officials are taking those steps because of the number of buildings and businesses participating. Recently, businesses were affected by construction during a smaller scale project.

This summer, a project to replace a sewer line along Pearl Street at Madison Avenue in downtown Greenwood was briefly delayed due to rain, prolonging the construction and impacting businesses that were partially blocked or hard to get to due to the work on the road.

The city encouraged employees and residents to eat and shop at local establishments around the construction, and signs were placed in front of buildings informing people the stores were open.

The city and the building owners want to avoid a similar incident when the Restore Old Town Greenwood facade restoration project begins, Mayor Mark Myers said.

Officials said they already are working on signs for the surrounding buildings and possible ideas to inform the public businesses will still be open during the work, Myers said.

Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2719.