Old City retailers worry street closures, repairs may hinder business

Old City street closures
Photo credit Shara Dae Howard/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Business owners in Old City are feeling left out in the cold as Philadelphia Water Department crews continue to repair a broken water main at Third and Arch streets.
The city starting fixing an 8-inch cracked water main on Jan. 7, which has caused traffic jams and consistently blocked off Third Street from Market to Arch streets, and Arch Street from Second to Third streets.

⚠ Update from 3rd and Arch main break: While the area is open to pedestrians and water is restored, these streets remain closed to traffic: 3rd from Market to Arch, and Arch from 2nd to 3rd. Water infrastructure repair work may take between 2–4 weeks: https://t.co/uucbl0VWlC pic.twitter.com/ntbT6T1qHQ

— Philadelphia Water (@PhillyH2O) January 10, 2020

A peek at the closure -- in #OldCity from earlier today due to the water main break yesterday morning. Thanks for the photo ⁦@RJKurland⁩! ⁦@KYWNewsradio#digitalteam pic.twitter.com/wKoOQ0JYMa

— Malcolm Poindexter III (@Mal_Poindexter3) January 8, 2020

Karen Riggs, owner of the Tribal Home art gallery along that stretch of Third Street, is one of several business owners who are concerned that the closures will drain their foot traffic. 

They received a notice from the city alerting them of the street closures. Riggs understands that repairs need to be made, but she’s worried the disruption to her business could be damaging. 

“I’m sending out an email to my customers to let them know that, yes, Old City is open,” she said. “It's Philadelphia's art district and historic district. They have to keep us thriving down here.”

Riggs is also anxious about the ambiguity of the city’s notice.

“Basically it said that it would be a repair, possibly three to four weeks,” she added.

The Philadelphia Water Department said the repairs involve a lot of undermining along the intersection, and they closed the streets for safety purposes. They expect repairs to take about a month and hope to work with another contractor to speed up the process. 

The two blocks that are temporarily closed are home to many other small businesses and art galleries, as well as the Betsy Ross House and Michael Bloomberg’s new Philadelphia office for his 2020 campaign, which opened on Third Street last month. Even the ever-populated Starbucks on the corner has been unusually barren.

In the meantime, the Old City District has agreed to help business owners with signage to alert passersby that the stores are open. Riggs just wants transparency.

“Honest communication with us would be great,” she said, “so we can make plans around what will happen.”