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

Pups and Cups to have limited hours during the summer

With intermittent weekend openings on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in response to the downtown project.
Courtesy of CJ Robert
Outside of Pups and Cups located in Downtown Pullman

Pups and Cups will be temporarily closed during the summer months while Project Downtown Pullman is executed.

The exact dates of the closing and reopening are currently unknown, said CJ Robert, Pups and Cups owner.

They will be open on weekends periodically throughout the summer. Those dates are also undetermined, she said.

Robert said the closures are a direct result of Project Downtown Pullman, the infrastructure and design plan ullman City Council passed.

According to the project’s website, “Project Downtown is a multi-year City-led effort to reshape Downtown Pullman’s streets and public spaces to build community, experiences, and economy.”

The construction for Project Downtown Pullman will take at least 6 ½ months to complete. The construction requires Main Street to be inaccessible by car. Front door access will also be blocked off periodically due to utility lines being replaced and sidewalk/concrete work, Robert said.

“It will be incredibly hard for people to find parking, and we don’t have a back door that customers can enter through as a main entrance,” Robert said.

Robert said the construction noise is also estimated to be a significant deterrent for customers.

“Would you want to go to a coffee shop with a constant jackhammer noise? I would not,” Robert said.

Sales are already drastically low in the summer, with an approximate 60% drop in sales. With the presumed decrease in customers during construction, it would be impossible for them to survive without taking a large financial hit, Robert said.

Businesses are already struggling right now with inflation, rent prices and the price of goods. It is very hard to stay afloat under these conditions, Robert said.

Grander Goods and It’s Poke-man, Robert’s other two businesses local to Pullman, will be closing permanently, Robert said.

Some landlords view Project Downtown Pullman as an opportunity to increase the value of the space they are renting. For Grander Goods and It’s Poke-Man,  the rental price would increase to a price they are unable to afford. That, along with the already expected revenue loss from construction, is forcing them into the position where they are forced to close, Robert said.

“I am disappointed with the city’s failure to listen and adhere to the concerns of business owners throughout this time,” Robert said.

Robert said the only effort the city has made to help is a “support local businesses campaign”, which she feels is not sustainable through 6 months.

The City Council’s response to businesses’ financial concerns has been to encourage business owners to apply for loans.

“Small businesses that have been open for two years or less, such as Grander Goods/It’s Poke-Man, are ineligible for such loans, and even if you can qualify for a loan, interest rates are on average around 9%,” Robert said.

They were under the impression for so long it would take three months which they would be able to handle, but 6 ½ months is impossible Robert said.

Robert said she had been following the downtown project since 2018 when it was first introduced under a larger plan to rebuild Pullman, called the “Pullman Master Plan.”

Robert said she supported the project and the idea, however when it was first pitched it was estimated to take 3 months and promised design elements that were not necessarily achieved later on such as wider sidewalks, and a focus on the visitor center, among other elements.

In December of 2023, Robert said she became aware that the timeline had extended to 6 1/2 months and tried to communicate her concerns at city council meetings.

“We pressed them many times, asking how they expect us to stay open for 6 ½ months and questioning design elements that she believed were not productive,” Robert said. “It turns out there won’t be nearly as much sidewalk space as anticipated. The gravel pits by the tree wells will take up a majority of space, and there will already be a bike lane going between storefront parking and the sidewalk, which will most likely feel very crowded.”

Business owners will be required to purchase grates to cover the gravel if they want outdoor seating. They will also have to lease the sidewalk space now for seating when they did not have to before, Robert said.

Pullman Mayor Francis Benjamin, , said initially the city council put a plan for the Downtown project up for bid that would take 3 months, however it received no offers.

Contractors said they would not be able to finish the project in that time frame with the proposed budget and design plan, so they had to extend the project, Benjamin said.

Nick Pitsilionis,the Black Cypress owner also had concerns about funding and the approach to construction.

Robert and Pitsilionis both said they and others pressed the city as early as March of 2022 to apply for more federal grants that would allow the project to be better funded, thus able to be finished within the promised summer only timeline, while also delivering the original, broader vision of Project Downtown Pullman that included improvements on Grand and Olson.

“With the passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021, as well as the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, it has been increasingly easier for small, rural cities to receive federal grants to fund projects such as this one,” Pitsilionis said.

The Downtown Pullman Association has raised $160,000 in for downtown improvements–that’s 160K more than the city, which has access to millions in federal funding, has come up with, Pitsilionis said.

Pitsilionis was first told that such grants are not available for the city, when Pitsilionis showed otherwise, the answer was the city did not have the resources to pursue them, he said.

Benjamin said before a grant writer was hired by Pullman four months ago, individual departments were responsible for seeking out and applying for Federal grants.

The departments have reviewed every grant they have been sent, but so far have not applied for a federal grant regarding Project Downtown Pullman, nor received one, Benjamin said.

Efforts to hire consultants that could quickly put together a comprehensive and tactical funding plan, of the kind successfully implemented for the Pullman Airport, were also ignored, Pitsilonis said.

“The extended timeline and the entire closure of Main Street to traffic and parking is a function of funding,” Pitsilionis said. “A well-funded construction project could have reduced the revenue losses from 60% to 10% and that funding could have come from federal sources aimed at rebuilding rural communities—not at the expense of the local taxpayers who are footing the bill for the difference between ARPA funds and the awarded bid.”

Pitsilionis said these types of grants were pursued and awarded to Pullman, except for the airport.

“Such grants were pursued, and awarded, to the City of Pullman, albeit for the Airport, rather than the city’s stated “Top Priority,” the Master Plan and specifically Project Downtown Pullman. According to Sen Patty Murray’s website, a 5 Million dollar RAISE grant was awarded for road improvements to the Pullman Airport.” Pitsilioni said.

The Pullman airport is probably the most critical bit of infrastructure for the region, Pitsilionis said. Had 10% of the effort been employed at the service of the Master Plan that was implemented at the Airport then the situation today would be very different.

“I feel betrayed. The mayor, majority of council and the city administrator were complacently ignorant and at times flat out refused to listen to the realities and ramifications this project would have on businesses,” Robert said. “I am a die-hard Coug and I love this community, but this whole situation has been a hard pill to swallow and nothing like the Coug spirit we have come to know and love.”

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