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New businesses along Tampa’s Cass Street feel pinch of road closures

A stormwater system improvement project has resulted in fewer customers frequenting Cass Street businesses in North Hyde Park.
Phase 1A of the project includes closing W Cass Street from N Willow Avenue to N Boulevard. [DIVYA KUMAR | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 21

TAMPA — When they opened in early August, NoHo Junction, the newest addition to Tampa’s nascent food hall scene, had a steady stream of customers during their lunch hour.

Now it’s practically empty.

Though the top of their website reads: “NoHo Junction at 1500 W. Cass is OPEN; Cass St. is NOT CLOSED at our location,” the owners said the stormwater improvement project that has closed down the portion of West Cass Street between N Boulevard to Willow Avenue has caused a great deal of trouble for them.

“It’s really hurt us,” NoHo Junction owner Randy Knowles said.

They timed their opening, he said, to be after the scheduled closure of Cass Street, but the project was delayed.

Phase 1A of the project included closing a portion of W Cass Street, from N Boulevard to Willow Avenue. It is scheduled to re-open Jan. 20.

Tapanee Damrongwatanasuk, Knowles wife and the owner of Royal Palace Thai on Howard Avenue, opened a storefront at NoHo Junction. She estimates a 90 percent reduction in customers since construction started.

“It’s really a problem there,” she said.

They’re not the only ones who have felt the pinch.

Sean O’Brien, owner of Cass Street Deli, which opened in July, said they were blindsided by the construction, when someone from the city came into their restaurant about a month and a half after they opened to let them know about it.

“We didn’t know it was coming,” he said.

A friend later saw the website for the project and told him the next phase of the project would include closing Cass between Willow and Rome avenues.

They’ve tried to get ahead of it, he said, by putting their business on DoorDash, UberEats, and other delivery services, which they will likely switch to exclusively when the street closes directly in front of them. They’ve also advertised their catering services.

The city, O’Brien, said, has been “super nice.”

The mayor stopped in late last month for a turkey sandwich and posted it on her Facebook with high praise. City officials have told O’Brien they’d make sure signage at the end of construction zones informs passersby that businesses on Cass are still open. Still, with the main artery to downtown closed, O’Brien said he’s worried.

“We just want people to know we’re still here,” he said.

PJ Calloway, construction engineer with the City of Tampa managing the project, said the city is empathetic toward the concerns of businesses and residents who face inconveniences with the detours, but the project, which includes installing water mains, sewers, sidewalks and other improvements, is essential with all the growth the area has seen in recent years.

“There has been a lot of development in the area,” he said. “It’s important to complete this work so the stormwater system can keep up with capacity.”

The project is slated to be complete by 2021, and Calloway hopes it sticks to schedule without delay. He encourages those with concerns to call the project hotline at (813) 321-0809 or email info@cypress-streetoutfall.com. The latest project updates at detour routes can be found at www.cypress-streetoutfall.com.

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