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Businesses along I-70 in Denver work to adapt to construction

Some businesses along 46th Avenue in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood say access has been difficult due to ongoing construction on Interstate 70.

DENVER — For a while now, the Colorado Department of Transportation has been working to improve Interstate 70 through Denver.

While CDOT says they've made an effort to make sure people can still access businesses in Globeville, Elyria-Swansea and other neighborhoods along the interstate, some business owners say it's still been a struggle.

Credit: Luis de Leon
A strip of businesses on 46th Avenue, which lines up against I-70 in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood.

Changing access

A sign reading "Business Open During Construction" can be seen along 46th Avenue near a strip of businesses that lines up against I-70.

Inside Hard Knocks Tattoo Parlor, you won't only find a place to get a tattoo, but many other services as well.

“We do tattoos, piercings, we’re a barbershop, we sell supplies – permanent makeup, we do a little bit of everything," owner Shawn Williams said. 

Their longtime customers have helped them grow close with the community, he said. 

“We love the community. We’ve never had any issues over here, and the neighborhood’s really friendly. The people that come around are really great," he said. 

However, the I-70 construction has impacted the access people -- both on foot and by car -- have to their shop. 

“With the access changing weekly -- it seems like one road or another road is always changing or being closed – so with that being said, finding the way to get here is always different every time," he said. 

He estimates business has been down by 30% to 40% recently. 

“When it comes to generating new clients and when we run sales that are to the public, the access has just been so difficult," he said.

Credit: Luis de Leon
Shawn Williams, owner of Hard Knocks Tattoo Parlor, stands with a fellow artist at their shop off of 46th Avenue.

Right next door sits the longtime business Imagen Beauty Salon

Stylist Rubia Herrera shared a similar story, saying the number of customers they're seeing has dropped. 

“I have customers in Green Valley Ranch, Montbello, Commerce City," she said, adding that those customers have to use the highway to get to the salon. 

She believes the I-70 closures have impacted business.

Both Williams and Herrera say they understand why construction is happening, but that doesn't stop the impact.

“In the long run the bigger picture is it’s going to be great for Colorado, but in the last couple years it’s been horrible for a small business like mine," Williams said. 

Credit: Luis de Leon
Rubia Herrera cuts a customer's hair at Imagen Beauty Salon off 46th Avenue.

Efforts from CDOT

Stacia Sellers, a spokesperson for CDOT, said via email that the Central 70 Project cannot provide compensation for lost revenue or rent unless access is restricted to the point that it's virtually impossible to conduct daily operations or welcome in customers. 

"Throughout viaduct demolition activities during the summer of 2021, we met with businesses along 46th Avenue every day unless otherwise told from businesses to keep a pulse on how they were doing during this impactful work that closed roads near their buildings," Sellers wrote. "Through these visits, we heard the need for some type of funding for these businesses to support them through construction and after so that everyone will be able to reap the benefits of the future park and keep their doors open."

The Project, Sellers said, partnered with businesses along 46th Avenue, including Hard Knocks and Imagen, to provide coupon books offering $5 off at each business, along with a map of all the store locations. 

"The Project paid for 100 $5 off coupons up front to each business (for instance, '$5 off a haircut' would equate to $500 straight to the business owner regardless if the coupon is used or not)," Sellers wrote. 

The Project also offered an interior cleaning service to address the dust some business owners were seeing in their stores during demolition.

Three businesses along 46th Avenue accepted this offer for cleaning services, Sellers said.

The project also put up the large banners indicating the businesses are open.

"We take our relationships with these businesses and residents seriously," Sellers wrote. "Our bilingual community liaisons have all shared their personal numbers with the businesses and are available if there are any concerns."

In the end, CDOT plans to have a new four-acre park over I-70 near the businesses.

"We know the Project has created a lot of inconveniences with road closures, but hope that by the end of the Project everyone will enjoy a safer and more reliable I-70 along with a new 4-acre cover park with amenities that will help to reconnect the Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods at last," Sellers wrote.


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