Businesses along I-70 are adapting to construction

Some businesses along 46th Avenue in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood say access is difficult due to ongoing construction on Interstate 70.

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Transportation has been working to improve Interstate 70 through Denver for some time.

While CDOT says they’ve made efforts to ensure people can still access businesses in Globeville, Elyria-Swansea and other neighborhoods along the interstate, some business owners say it’s still difficult.

Change access

A sign reading “Business Open During Construction” can be seen along 46th Avenue near a strip of businesses that line I-70.

At Hard Knocks Tattoo Parlor, you will not only find a place for tattooing, but also many other services.

“We do tattoos, piercings, we’re a barbershop, we sell supplies – permanent makeup, we do a little bit of everything,” owner Sean Williams said.

Their longtime customers have helped them bond with the community, he said.

“We love the community. We’ve never had any problems here and the neighborhood is really friendly. The people who come are really great,” he said.

However, the construction of I-70 affected people’s access – both on foot and by car – to their store.

“Because the access changes every week — it seems like one road or another is always changing or closing — so with that in mind, finding your way here is always different every time,” he said.

He estimates business has been down 30% to 40% recently.

“When it comes to generating new customers and when we do sales that are to the public, access is just so difficult,” he said.

Next door is the long-standing beauty salon Imagen.

Stylist Rubia Herrera shared a similar story, saying the number of clients she sees has decreased.

“I have customers in Green Valley Ranch, Montbello, Commerce City,” she said, adding that those customers have to use the highway to get to the salon.

She believes the I-70 closure has affected business.

Both Williams and Herrera say they understand why construction is happening, but that doesn’t stop the impact.

“Long-term, the bigger picture is it’s going to be great for Colorado, but the last couple of years it’s been terrible for a small business like mine,” Williams said.

CDOT’s efforts

Stacia Sellers, a spokeswoman for CDOT, said via email that the Central 70 Project cannot provide compensation for lost revenue or rent unless access is restricted to the point that it is virtually impossible to conduct day-to-day operations or receive customers.

“During the viaduct demolition activities in the summer of 2021, we have been meeting with businesses along 46th Avenue every day, unless told otherwise by the businesses, to monitor how they are doing during this impactful work, which closed roads near their buildings,” Sellers wrote. “Through these visits, we heard the need for some kind of funding for these businesses to support them through construction and beyond so that everyone can benefit from the future park and keep their doors open.”

The project, Sellers said, is partnering with businesses along 46th Avenue, including Hard Knocks and Imagen, to provide coupon books offering $5 off each business, along with a map of all store locations.

“The project paid for 100 $5 off coupons in advance for each business (for example, a ‘$5 off haircut’ would equal $500 directly to the business owner, whether the coupon was used or not),” Sellers wrote.

The project also offers an interior cleaning service to deal with the dust that some business owners see in their stores during the demolition.

Three businesses along 46th Avenue accepted that offer for cleaning services, Sellers said.

The project also put up large banners indicating that businesses were open.

“We take our relationships with these businesses and residents seriously,” Sellers wrote. “All of our bilingual community liaison officers have shared their personal numbers with the businesses and are available if there are any concerns.”

Eventually, CDOT plans to have a new four-acre park above I-70 near the businesses.

“We know the Project has created many inconveniences with road closures, but we hope that by the end of the Project, everyone will enjoy a safer and more reliable I-70 along with a new 4-acre covered park with amenities that will help finally reconnect the neighborhoods of Elyria and Swansea,” Sellers wrote.

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