Busch Boulevard improvements may hurt businesses

Nader Saqer, who owns Sam’s Beauty Supply & Dollar Universe Plus with his brother Sam, waits for customers. Left-turn access to the store will end. “With the economy and taxes and mortgages, we’re all just struggling to survive. And now the government is trying to kill us,” Sam Saqer says.

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times

Nader Saqer, who owns Sam’s Beauty Supply & Dollar Universe Plus with his brother Sam, waits for customers. Left-turn access to the store will end. “With the economy and taxes and mortgages, we’re all just struggling to survive. And now the government is trying to kill us,” Sam Saqer says.

TEMPLE TERRACE

Sam Saqer moved to Florida from New York for a better life for his family. A quieter life.

But financially, Saqer says he may have made a grave mistake.

He and other small-business owners on E Busch Boulevard are afraid they'll soon lose customers as the state closes medians to make the road safer. Once that happens, drivers will not be able to make left turns to enter his store.

The road plan, which went out to bid last month, has been in the works for nearly five years, said Kris Carson, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation.

"It's a major corridor to Busch Gardens, and there is a lot of traffic in that area," Carson said.

"The changes were presented in two public meetings last year, and people had the opportunity to respond."

Saqer, who owns Sam's Beauty Supply & Dollar Universe Plus on E Busch Boulevard and N 33rd Street, said that he knew of no such meeting and that he has been open at that location for more than a year.

"They just came by one day and dropped off the plans," he said. "I didn't know anything about it before then."

In the plan, left-turn access to N 33rd Street will be closed. Renfrew Place, the other entry point to Saqer's store, will be closed for construction.

"It will hurt us, no doubt," he said. "If people have to go up to 40th or down to 30th Street and make a U-turn to get to us, they will probably say forget it and go to CVS."

Customers at Java Food Bazaar already have to make a U-turn. But the new plan aims to alter the N 48th Street and Connechusetts Avenue left-turn lanes.

"We don't know when it's going to happen or how long it will take," said Sami Samhouri, the store's owner. "We're not even sure how it can affect us."

He hopes the changes will feed directly into his plaza.

"But I know it will hurt us if they have to close for construction because people do what is convenient."

Samhouri was aware of the plan because he owned a garage on Busch when the construction was introduced. "They said it was for the beautification of the road," Samhouri said.

That was when the state had money for landscaping.

Today, things are different. Don't expect a lot of landscaping, Carson said. "We're focusing on the safety issues."

Robert Baruer, who works at Kaotik Audio and Tint at Busch Boulevard and N 27th Street, doesn't argue the need for a safer road. He has seen people try to make left-hand turns across three lanes of traffic in the middle of the block.

There are 21 left-turn-lane crashes a year on the busy boulevard, according to a 500-page study conducted by the DOT.

The plan will close 15 additional median openings and assign directions to 17 median openings along Busch Boulevard from Nebraska Avenue to 56th Street at a construction cost of more than $1.7-million.

"It's really bad and people get hit all the time because they can't see past someone else who's doing the same thing in the other direction," Baruer said. "I'm all for (the median closings) if it will make the road safer."

So is longtime customer Taurus Davis. "I understand why people will be upset because they will have to change and, generally, as people, we do not like to change," Davis said. "But sometimes it's necessary."

Perhaps, Saqer says.

But what about all the other logistical nightmares it will cause for the businesses?

"My merchandise comes from California and New York on huge 18-wheelers, and it will be very difficult for them to make U-turns to deliver it," Saqer said.

"With the economy and taxes and mortgages, we're all just struggling to survive. And now the government is trying to kill us."

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at rmitchell@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5313.

Busch Boulevard improvements may hurt businesses 05/22/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 27, 2008 10:30am]

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