Businesses balk at trolley-line proposal

Extension may spell trouble for hardware store

Metro is thinking of closing the gap between overhead trolley wires between Third and Sixth avenues west on West McGraw Street. Extending the wires will involve installing new poles to hold the wires from the sides, but the idea doesn't sit well with a couple of businesses along that three-block stretch of road, owners say.

One of the businesses is Ken's Market, which stands to lose one or more of its dozen parking places on McGraw, said part owner Joe Vizzare.

He heard about the proposed project a few weeks ago when a Metro engineer stopped by and explained that initial plans call for installing a new support pole along his parking strip about a third of the way down the block from Sixth Avenue West.

An alternate location near the store's reader board near Sixth West was discussed, but nothing was settled on, said Vizzare, who conceded that losing one or more parking places may not sound like much.

But it is, he said. "It's getting tight around here," Vizzare said of parking. He already has store staff members park on side streets, but that upsets some of the nearby residents who object to anyone but themselves parking in front of their homes, Vizzare added. "They complain at Ken's."

Down at Third West and McGraw, the Five Corners Hardware store stands to take an even bigger hit, said owner Brian Shook. The same engineer who talked to Vizzare talked to him and said a support pole would be installed on the sidewalk on Third West north of McGraw.

That would cause a major problem, Shook said, because that's where the hardware business stores around 22 pallets of bagged-up soil and compost.

Putting the pole there would prevent a semi-sized truck from making deliveries of the soil because the truck parks partially over the sidewalk so that a forklift can unload the pallets from the other side, he explained.

There's no other place the hardware business can store the pallets, Shook added, and that means the store will end up taking a significant financial hit. "That's what we make money on," he said of bagged soil, which is a big seller at the store.

In fact, Shook went on to say, sales of the soil pay salaries for two staff members and some of the overhead at the 68-year-old family business.

Shook suggested that a new pole be installed right at the corner, where a wooden pole already supports existing trolley wires, he noted. The engineer dismissed the suggestion, saying a new, larger pole would be needed at the corner because of the extra support needed for new wires and that would be too expensive, Shook recounted.

Shook was also critical of Metro's public-relations approach about the project. "They ask, but then they tell you what they're going to do," he groused. "It's going to make it extremely more difficult," he said of doing business when the pole on Third West goes in - if and when it does.

Metro spokeswoman Linda Thielke said the engineer was only taking an informal survey about the project. "They're just at the kick-ideas-around stage," she added.

Shook and Vizzare both said they'd been told the project was set to begin in five or six months, and Thielke confirmed that was the original idea.

But the trolley-wire project on West McGraw has slipped down Metro's priority list of things to do, she said. As it stands now, the project won't kick off until 2010 or 2011, Thielke added.

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at or 461-1309.

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