Sally Schilling/Daily Journal
Chuck Monoiki, manager of Arya Global Cuisine on Middlefield Road in Redwood City, waits for lunchtime customers in his empty restaurant near a new city construction site.
Manager Chuck Manoiki waited for customers to come in during the lunch hour in his nearly empty restaurant in downtown Redwood City. He looked out at the construction fences and equipment that now fill the view from the windows of Arya Global Cuisine on Middlefield Road and Theatre Way.
"We usually have around 40 or 50 customers at lunch,” said Manoiki, looking around at his almost vacant dining room. "It’s been this way since this started.”
Work began about a month ago to relocate a storm culvert underneath the Middlefield Road parking lot. This is the first stage in the city’s Redwood Tower development project, which is the construction of two mid-rise office and retail buildings near Theatre Way.
The construction is blocking through traffic on Middlefield Road and limiting parking and access to the businesses located on Theatre Way. All businesses are remaining open during the project, including Arya, which opened eight months ago.
"It’s a great promise of tomorrow,” said Fera Hashemi, another manger at Arya. "In the meantime, we’re here.”
She pointed to the construction blockade that prevents vehicle traffic on Theatre Way on weekdays.
"Look at it,” she said. "In the rain, my customers can’t drop off people in front of the restaurant.”
The city held its first meeting with the impacted businesses last Thursday.
Hashemi left the meeting hopeful that there would be collaboration with the city to improve customer access to the shops and restaurants during construction.
While Theatre Way is opened up for vehicle traffic Friday evening through Sunday evening, some suggested opening up Theatre Way on weekday afternoons too.
Another idea Hashemi liked was setting up valet parking on the east end of Theatre Way. She suggested valet cars be parked in the courthouse parking garage, which is free after 6 p.m.
After the meeting, Community Development Director Bill Ekern said he was open to the concerns of the business owners.
"Our commitment is to the businesses,” he said.
He acknowledged that the construction deters the already fickle customer base.
"It’s brutal for businesses,” he said. "I don’t think we’re going to be able to solve everyone’s problems. Parking is always difficult in cities.”
But some of the solutions proposed by businesses are plausible, he said. And he is willing to consider revising project logistics if it would help them.
Many of the business owners feel the project will be beneficial in the long run, but are worried about making it in the short term, and during the upcoming holiday season.
Portobello Grill owner Kamran Mahrou was concerned about customer access, but was hopeful after the meeting that the city will help.
"We like to encourage people to come here, everybody’s open,” he said. "We’re working with the city to make it as easy as possible.”
While there are less parking spaces in the Middlefield Road lot, there are 750 spaces in the Jefferson garage under their building shared with Century 20 Theatre, he said. And there are more spaces in the courthouse parking garage.
"We do need the support of the people during construction,” he said.
Despite the potential shortfalls, Mahrou is optimistic about of city’s downtown improvement projects.
"Everything Redwood City is trying to do is going to make the area exciting,” he said. "So it will be good in the end.”
Pizza My Heart manager Bobbi Jo Cannizzaro said she would like Theatre Way to be open for her delivery drivers.
Pizza My Heart has seen an 8 percent decrease in sales from the same time last year. But the construction has not hurt her business, which offers delivery, as much as the other restaurants, she said.
She hopes the city will start construction earlier in the morning and begin to open up Theatre Way on weekday afternoons.
"We will all benefit if they actually do it,” she said.
The first phase of relocating the underground storm culvert will last up to eight months, according to the city’s website. The entire project is estimated to take more than two years to complete.
The city is expected to hold another meeting with businesses in the next few weeks.
For more information on the Redwood Tower project visit www.redwoodcity.org/redwoodtower.