For years, local businesses and residents in the Gandy Boulevard section of South Tampa fought against an overpass extension connecting the Selmon Expressway and the Gandy Bridge.
But that project is now underway, and local business owners are understandably worried about what will happen.
Now, many of those businesses are joining forces with a handful of regional chambers of commerce, to start an unprecedented three-year initiative launching Tuesday. It’s designed to try and keep local businesses afloat before, during, and after the overpass project.
“It's the uncertainty more than anything,” said Shawn Bowman, who started-up his 81 Bay Brewing Company last year.
Bowman figured he had about 4 years to establish his business before ever worrying about the Gandy Overpass extension in South Tampa. But now with construction slated to start in just four months, not years, he and other business owners in the area are worried.
“We are uncertain. We're hoping that we have enough of a local following between the other side of Gandy and the local neighborhoods that are currently in the area,” said Bowman.
The concern is understandable.
When we spoke with people driving on Gandy Boulevard, many said construction would likely have them looking for alternate routes.
Trish Dwyer actually spoke the words business owners find most haunting. “A lot of the places along here you can find somewhere else. So I can see how business would suffer on this road, for sure,” said Dwyer. “I'll probably reroute. For sure.”
The South Tampa Chamber of Commerce says they get it. So, on Tuesday, they're launching a three year multimedia initiative to boost business along Gandy. A social media campaign, website and more with the hashtags #ShopGandy and #ShopLocal.
“We know that there is going to be some disruption, but we do want to make people aware that the businesses are here,” said Kelly Flannery, CEO of the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
“These are a lot of mom-and-pop shops. Locally owned businesses,” said Flannery, “And we want to make sure that they are well supported by the community before during and after construction.”
The Expressway Authority also hopes to raise awareness by handing out items like shopping bags, yard signs, even vehicle magnets.
Bowman says all those things will help, but what's most important to him is that, so far, officials are listening by promising to work at night to avoid traffic backups and vowing to keep driveways and entrances clear for his and other business.
“Already the initiatives are there. And, the diplomacy is being extended from all the other workers that are going to be involved in this project,” said Bowman.
The Chamber says it will also be hosting events throughout the construction project in hopes of driving business toward Gandy, including their own holiday party later this year.
Three other regional chambers are also participating in the #ShopGandy initiative.
If you'd like more information, or still have questions, the launch party for the three-year program will take place 5:30 PM, Tuesday, September 26th, at 81 Bay Brewing Company, which is located in the shopping plaza at the northwest corner of Gandy Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue.
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