By: Melina Matthes
OMAHA (kptm) - If you've been to Benson lately, you may have noticed a few changes. Over the past few months the city has spent thousands in dollars to improve the business district, but one store owner says the construction has caused a 40% decline in her customers.
Fox 42's News spoke with her, she says the blueprints looked good in the beginning but the final result is disappointing.
One Benson neighborhood official said the majority of the improvements to the area were visual. A sign welcomes people to the area and new medians are filled with decorative plants, however the owner of Fast Alterations said the construction of new curbs and traffic lights caused her to lose a parking space."
The ribbon's been cut and the construction is gone, but not everyone's celebrating. "I'm kind of disappointed. You know, I think the outcome could have been better," Ana Brito said.
She opened her business, Fast Alterations, 8 years ago. She said business was booming until construction started. "I mean it's very hard for the people to park, in this area they only left me one parking space, the rest they have to park across the street. It's a really busy intersection, I mean it's affecting me a lot."
But business owner John Larkin said it's not the construction that's scaring off customers. "We've kind of had a name down here in the past, that people thought it was a little rough down here, beautifying is a good thing," he said.
Mark Pflug with the Benson neighborhood association said that's one of the reasons why the area was revamped. He said the changes will take some getting used to but overall it's a step in the right direction. "It's such an improvement, some people don't like the necessary configuration of the intersection, but as far as the look, it's a much nicer look and it does control traffic a little better," Pflug said.
And as for Brito's shop, "I would hope that her business improves now that it's been fixed up and there's more traffic in Benson and Benson's resurging, that it would make up for the lost business that the business owners had during the construction periods," Pflug said.
Now he hopes more people will visit the area. "Come down to Benson. You're always welcome and there's plenty for you to do and see and for any business owners that are looking for a place to relocate it's the place to be."
He added that the next step for Benson is to improve the two city parks. They're asking people for donations to help make them safer for kids. If you would like to make a donation toward the two city parks, visit www.cityofomaha.org/parks
The majority of the funding for the Benson Gateway project came from state and federal grants. It cost approximately $560,000.
The Benson renovation project started in April.
In June, discussions began regarding upgrading the old Louis market into a Bucky's gas station. The city council unanimously voted in favor of the decision in September. Bucky's plans to invest five million dollars to take over the three-acre lot.