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Construction causing business loss

Owners say they didn’t receive notice about the project
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Recent construction in the Auburn Rock Creek Plaza shopping complex has some employees and owners fuming over a loss of business. Placer County is managing the construction, which is focusing on the entrances, exits and sidewalks within the plaza. It is also centered on fixing cracked pavement and cement, according to Jonathan Gesuale, executive director of North American Development Group, which owns the property. The construction is part of a redevelopment plan the county and previous property owners put into action in 2006. North American Development Group purchased the center at the end of March, and is seeing the plan through to the end, Gesuale said. Construction is taking place around several businesses in the complex including Belle Beauty Supply, Baskin Robbins, the UPS Store and Supercuts. The road in front of the stores have been dug up and roped off with caution tape. Steve Brown, manager of the Placer County Redevelopment Agency, said the State of California, Housing and Community Development Department, Community Development Block Grant Program and local North Auburn Redevelopment Project Area funds are paying for this $1.8 million project. The project is expected to come in under budget and be completed next month, Brown said. “We think it’s going to finish the last week of August,” he said. Actual construction for the project started July 19, Brown said. Brown said in a couple of weeks the current phase of the project should be completed. Marty Ruthman, Baskin Robbins owner, said customers don’t want to make their way across a gravel pedestrian walkway leading to his store or into the parking lot next to the side of the businesses. “It’s just a disaster, it’s just killing business,” Ruthman said. “Customers can’t get there. They don’t want to get there at this point. It’s my peak season for business and I’m down 50 percent.” Ruthman said he was not given any notice of the construction, or he would have taken preventative action to keep his customers coming in. Margaret Rice, owner of the UPS Store in the plaza, said her business is also being affected negatively. “They are killing us,” Rice said. “They have torn it up and they left it like this now.” Shelly Killgore, owner of Belle Beauty Supply, said her business has dropped more than 50 percent in the last three business days. Three of the five entrances/exits to the center are currently open, but last week only two were open, Killgore said. “Getting in and out of the center right now is just horrendous,” she said. Killgore said she’s upset that workers haven’t been on-site doing construction in the last couple of days. “They tore up every section at once … and as of yesterday there were no county workers there at all,” she said. Brown said the day-shift workers have not been out because they got ahead of schedule and are now waiting on night-shift workers to catch up with them, but day and night crews would be back on schedule Wednesday. Several road signs stating businesses are still open and a parking lot on the Bell Road side of businesses being most affected should still offer customers a chance to visit stores, Brown said. Gesuale said North American included Rock Creek Plaza’s property manager’s name and phone number on a letter sent out by the county at the beginning of June. Two weeks later the property manager walked the property and told the business owners about the planned construction. Auburn resident Toni Moore said it wasn’t easy for her to figure out where to park in the plaza and how to get to the UPS Store. “It’s not clear,” Moore said. “It was hard to find. I didn’t quite know how I was going to get in here, but I drove around and found it.” Lexi Frechette, who works as a receptionist at Supercuts, said the business was not informed about the construction, and it is affecting the number of customers they see at night. Auburn resident Kitty Noirot said she thinks the improvements will be good in the long run, but sees how the construction could be affecting businesses now. “It’s only an inconvenience if people lose money and business,” Noirot said. Foresthill resident John Nemeth said he saw an elderly couple try to get to the businesses and then give up and get back in their car, but he found a way to get through. “I had a hell of a time making it to my hairdresser,” Nemeth said. “I walked through (the planter).” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com