Mesa plaza hails end of road construction - East Valley Tribune: News

Mesa plaza hails end of road construction

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Posted: Friday, November 6, 2009 9:22 pm | Updated: 12:48 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Old signs still advertise for closed stores at the Riviera Plaza in Mesa. Businesses operating at the plaza were eager to see the end of a major construction project at Gilbert Road and University Drive. The $8.4 million project was completed Friday, and merchants say the plaza has seen a decrease in business since the start of construction eight months ago.

Old signs still advertise for closed stores at the Riviera Plaza in Mesa.

Businesses operating at the plaza were eager to see the end of a major construction project at Gilbert Road and University Drive.

The $8.4 million project was completed Friday, and merchants say the plaza has seen a decrease in business since the start of construction eight months ago. Fry's Food & Drug, its anchor store, also closed in August.

Store owners and employees had mixed views about what caused the drop in business and the future outlook of the plaza.

Total Hair Experience, a salon that has been in the plaza for more than four years, will vacate its space this month. The salon's business has dropped 30 percent during construction, owner Carlos Flores said.

"Adding more lanes is better for drivers, but our three entrances were virtually reduced to one," Flores said. "The way they built it, people can only use one entrance."

The city widened Gilbert and University to three lanes in each direction, installed dual-left-turn lanes, and added medians and landscaping, among other improvements.

The project was the first of 13 planned street improvements approved by Mesa voters in a 2008 bond election.

The lower accessibility of the plaza during construction caused many clients to be late or cancel their salon appointments, Flores said.

The increase in rent costs is another reason Flores is moving the salon to Gilbert, but the construction was the main factor in the decrease of business, he said.

The intersection needed to be changed because it was dangerous, but the change came at a bad time for Total Hair Experience, Flores said.

Flowers and Such, an accessory store in the plaza, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in business. The business will not be renewing its lease, but construction played no part in the decision to leave, said owner Bob Lewis.

The increase in rent was vital in his decision, Lewis said.

Lewis was responsible for setting up an end-of-construction party that started Friday and will go through Saturday.

The shopping center still has many signs of stores that formerly operated in the plaza. The center was at near full capacity five years ago, Lewis said.

Jamba Juice, which has been making smoothies at the plaza for 10 years, will continue to stay, said General Manager Brendan Hurtado. The store had seen losses due to the recession and construction, he said.

"Business slowed down, a lot of people avoided the plaza ... a lot of our business shifted to catering events outside of the plaza," Hurtado said.

The loss of Fry's actually increased business for Jamba Juice, Hurtado said.

The end-of-construction party will be the largest plaza-wide event he has seen since working at Jamba Juice, Hurtado said.

Jamba Juice and many other businesses will be showcasing products and giving away free items. The only business in the plaza not participating is Total Hair Experience.

Hurtado said he is confident in the future of the plaza.

"I think (the plaza) will fill up again once we get another anchor store."

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