The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Local businesses concerned about Pullman renovation

Proposed plan expected to take 6 1/2 months to complete
The proposed plan would require a major shutdown of most businesses on Main St.

The Save Downtown Pullman group sent out a survey to business owners on Main Street which revealed 86.7% believe the project’s disruptions will harm their businesses.

The city already had the bid opening for the project and will now need to work through the bids to bring an offer to city council, Mayor Francis Benjamin said.

The city of Pullman has been in talks of renovating downtown since 2018, said CJ Robert, owner of Pups & Cups café, Grander Goods and It’s Poke-Man in downtown Pullman. She is one of the few business owners in Pullman who has known about the renovation project for a long time, and said the city has not been efficient in its communication with business owners who would be affected by the project.

The proposed plan for the project is expected to take six and a half months for completion and would require a major shutdown of most businesses that are located on Main St, according to Pullman Radio.

“You’re going to see about 77% of businesses close in six and a half months,” Robert said. “And the city council is fully aware, and they’re just going to go through with it under the expectation that businesses are just going to deal with it and take out loans.”

Nikiforos Pitsilionis, The Black Cypress owner and chef, said businesses on Main St. will lose outdoor seating, front and rear door access for customers and experience traffic jams and parking losses as a result of the current proposed project.

“We are facing a really difficult circumstance that could have been prevented,” Pitsilionis said. “We are very close to disaster.” 

The proposed timeline of the project will disrupt business during some of the already slower months of the year, such as over the summer, Pitlionis said. The current project timeline is estimated to run from April through the end of October this year.

The goal of the project is to repair old infrastructure and safety issues in downtown, along with slowing down traffic, widening sidewalks and having quieter streets, Benjamin said.

“We’re thinking about how we can make the downtown more inviting for people to come downtown, to be downtown, to shop downtown, to eat, and to have entertainment,” Benjamin said.

According to the survey, a majority of the businesses on Main St. are fearful that they will experience a significant loss of their consumer base as a result of the construction timeline. Many businesses also indicated that they do not have adequate reserves to serve as a buffer in the case that they experience extreme revenue losses during the construction period.

Robert said she and Pitsilionis have been trying to convince the city council to consider a redesign in the best interest of business owners who will be negatively impacted by the current proposal.

“What we’ve been proposing is a pause on the project, and sitting down with all the businesses that have an eye on it and doing a redesign,” she said. 

Robert said she is not against a renovation of the downtown Pullman area, but believes that the proposal in its current state will do more harm than good.

Robert and Pitsilionis, along with other business owners, have also asked the city to consider employing trenchless technology for the construction project in order to minimize damage to local businesses, Robert said, along with suggesting alternative funding sources for the project, such as federal grants and long-term loans.

Benjamin said the city is trying to get businesses connected to economic development groups to help them withstand the financial losses they might experience during the construction.

“If there are grants out there, if there are loans out there, we’re working to get businesses connected to those groups,” Benjamin said. “The other thing we’re working on is during our construction time, how do we message out to the community that businesses are still open, and come on down.”

The city is working in collaboration with the downtown association, as well as the tourism department and the chamber of commerce to design a marketing scheme that can help advertise local businesses throughout the construction period, Benjamin said.

Benjamin said many businesses will likely see a drop in customers throughout the project, however, he believes that they will see a great increase in their consumer base after the project is completed.

“It is actually going to be a great benefit for them once we get it done, because more people are going to want to come downtown,” he said.

The funding for the project is currently coming from $9 million in COVID-19 relief funding that the city of Pullman received due to the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021. If the city of Pullman does not contract the money by the end of the year, the funds will be taken back by the government.

Robert said she believes that the city council is afraid of losing the money and are making rash decisions due to fear. They are being negligent of the long-lasting impact this project will have on Pullman business owners if it is seen to completion.

“It’s going to be economically devastating,” she said. “People will lose housing, their jobs, their entire livelihoods. Generations will be economically affected.”

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About the Contributors
MUSFIRAH KHAN, Evergreen reporter
Musfirah Khan is a junior from Seattle, Washington studying multimedia journalism. She started working for the Evergreen in spring 2023.
MADDY RICE, Evergreen photographer
Maddy Rice is a photographer for the Daily Evergreen. Originally from White Center, Washington, she is a sophomore majoring in Business Managment, with a minor in Sports Managment. Maddy began working for the Daily Evergreen in the Fall of 2023.