CLEVELAND, Ohio — After months of construction, the West Side Market’s parking lot has reopened. Vendors at the market say construction hurt them more than imagined.
“The parking lot killed us … I mean, it really killed us,” said vendor David Gntille. “For four and a half months we’ve been waiting and waiting; finally it’s open. You see how many people are here now. Last Saturday, you could roll a bowling ball down the alley and not hit anyone.”
Just shy of 100 vendors signed a petition submitted to the city urging for a reduction in rent. The petition says it will “commensurate with the decrease in business resulting from the sudden and unannounced closure of the customer parking facility.”
Customers say the lack of parking for the market made them avoid the area all together.
“It was a disaster zone over here, just basically nowhere to park,” said customer Kenny Collins.
Other customers say the reconstructed lot couldn’t have opened at a better time.
“I love it, it’s fantastic,” said shopper Nate Phillips. “Before you know it, you came down and had to ride around for a while, search for parking, and it would drain you, and you would just say, ‘I’m not coming in.'”
Vendors say business decreased 40-60 percent since construction started. Others had to let go of staff or decrease the hours of employees.
“It was that bad,” said Gntille. “I couldn’t even pay the help. It was killing us.”
The losses for many vendors were worse than initially thought. Vinent Bertonaschi, the President of the West Side Market Tenants Association, submitted the petition to lower rent to the city. He says paying less would help vendors catch up with rent.
“The rent went up and the customers went down,” said Bertonaschi. “When [customers] came here five times and couldn’t park, they just stopped coming. I don’t feel that we got that many more [parking lot]spaces. I feel like they ruined business for a long time.”
According to the West Side Market Facebook page “A fee structure will be put into place in the future.”
Details are still being determined by the city.