Downtown Destruction Continues in San Jose

The merchant class is not amused
BY: CALEB HOOGLAND

Take a trip to downtown San Jose and you’ll see what we full time residents have become accustomed to: traffic jams due to construction. At this point, we’re wondering if it will ever end and the answer seems to be, no. For now, anyway. Fonatur is taking their sweet time and has shown no intentions of speeding things up.

Fonatur is repaving and redesigning Boulevard Mijares, the street that leads directly to the plaza from the hotel zone. So far, the entire street has been repaved and the curbs redone. The only section remaining is the last two-block stretch from the bridge that goes to Puerto Los Cabos to the downtown plaza (which is also being torn up and redone).

dtdest.JPGCurrently, the right side of the street is closed due to construction and has been for almost three months. Everything was already leveled, with utilities in place, when Tropical Storm Lidia churned through and made a mess, turning the dirt into mud. It took almost two weeks to clean everything up, and workers have now started on the street. The street is going to be made of pavers, similar to the streets of the downtown art district. The goal is to have the whole downtown area look the same.  Cobblestone by cobblestone.

The sidewalks on the right side of the street are torn up as well, and trying to navigate them on foot is a disaster, as there is not always a clearly marked path free of construction debris. Planters have been ripped up, as they are being redesigned.

While all this construction is going on, downtown has seen nearly all of its tourism disappear. Many tourists are staying away because of the construction, and locals are also avoiding the area because they don’t want to deal with traffic, parking, and weaving their way through tripping hazards on the sorry pathway that was left for foot traffic.

Many business owners on the construction side of the street closed their shops while sidewalks were torn up to be replaced. Fonatur asked the businesses to give them one week to tear up the sidewalk and lay foundation so they could get a decent pathway opened up for pedestrian traffic. But, although the sidewalks were torn up on time, they have yet to drive to completion. It has now been a month and the majority of the businesses remain closed, with only a handful of shops open.

The suddenness of the construction, coupled with the delays due to Lidia and Fonatur, have created a financial difficulty that many of the local businesses were not expecting. Not only do they have to keep paying rent, utilities, and other expenses, they also have to battle with the decrease in tourism and foot traffic during the day. One coffee shop, Café Dona Nena, has seen sales go down 85% due to all the construction havoc.

Fonatur originally promised to have each side of the street done within months (the right side by September and the left side by November). They missed the September goal and it’s looking like they’re not going to make the November deadline either. They have already gone a month over on their original projection, causing many of the affected business owners to become extremely peeved. Those that are closed for business are without income and those that are open are without customers.

Adding to their worries are the plaza remodel – which is being carried out by the state government – although the plaza seems to be in much better shape than the street. The majority of the plaza now has a cement foundation and that ugly wooden fence/tarp barrier has been removed.

New concrete stretches from the entrance from the street to past where the fountains used to be, on the north side. On the west side of the plaza, the concrete is in place until just short of the kiosk. Even though the plaza is now open to pedestrians, it’s still a bit of a hassle making your way around the construction workers, which is why not all of the local businesses in the plaza have reopened.

The new foundation has been poured but the pavers have yet to be put in place. Currently, the plaza is very bare, and a lot of work has yet to be done. New planters, a new fountain, and a brand new area for our local historic figures all have yet to be started. We are still a few months out on this project, as the initial date they gave us was for December.

As a side note, we were originally told years ago that these two projects would be done by the same party. But due to a lack of funds from the state government, the street portion of the project was handed to Fonatur, a federal agency. Each party was given a set of plans for the project by IMPLAN, the city’s zoning commission. The unfortunate thing is that each party has absolute authority to make changes when they want to. So really, the plans that they have are more like suggestions than blueprints.