Construction barriers, fewer parking spaces and narrower pedestrian passages have been keeping customers away from a string of popular shops on part of C-Ring Road, several area storeowners have said.
Earlier this year, Qatar’s public works authority Ashghal began major construction on 6.3km of the heavily trafficked road, with plans to widen it and install new smart traffic signals.
The work, being carried out in four phases that will finish by mid-2015, also includes upgrading irrigation pipes and adding more pedestrian crossings and U-turn lanes.
Phase 1, which took place near the old airport, was completed on schedule this weekend.
Phase 2 and 3 have been skipped for now due to conflicting projects in the area, and Ashghal began Phase 4 in mid-August.
At that time, crews started tackling the section of road from New Salata intersection (near the former Al Andalus petrol station) to Kinana intersection (just before La Cigale Hotel) and from the Center Roundabout to just before Al Asiri intersection.
The construction has coincided with a drop in customers for businesses located between the Radisson Blu (Ramada) signal and Al Mana Towers, including California Tortilla, according to restaurant manager Leila Rosales.
“It’s really affected us,” she said. “Some of our guests, when they saw the construction, they’re thinking that we’re closed.”
Ashghal has said it understands that C-Ring Road is an important commercial street and is taking steps to mitigate the negative impact of construction by, for example, providing alternative parking spaces for businesses.
For example, construction crews have laid a metal walkway linking the road to California Tortilla, so customers don’t have to walk directly through the dusty work site.
Additionally, while the restaurant’s parking lot remains inaccessible to cars due to construction, Ashghal has set up a parking area on C-Ring Road in front of the restaurant.
However, barriers now separate most shops and restaurants from the street, which can force customers to walk hundreds of feet in either direction to find an entrance point.
Medwin Archedera, an employee at an Arabic sweet shop near Al Mana Towers, said many people have stopped coming to the area, noting that only two people entered his shop over a 45-minute span on Thursday afternoon.
Over the last few weeks, sales have “definitely” gone down, Archedera said.
In an attempt to combat the decrease in walk-in sales, the store has tried to encourage customers to call in orders ahead of time, which allows employees to run the equivalent of a make-shift drive-thru.
Likewise, California Tortilla is promoting its delivery service. Rosales said, however, that she expects the construction in front of her store to be finished in a little more than a month.
Unfortunately for the small shops near the Al Mana Towers, the difficulties are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
“The time frame of the construction is six months,” Archedera said. “It’s (a) very long time for businesses.”
An irregular construction schedule is adding to frustration for some. Morales said she didn’t see any workers on the site for a 48-hour stretch last week.
“We don’t know what’s wrong,” she said.
At least one business appears to have closed down entirely during construction. Petite Café hasn’t opened its doors since construction began in late August, Archedera and Rosales said.
A sign in the store’s window says the shutdown is for “General Maintenance for the Restaurant air conditioning.”
Even after the construction ends, parking may continue to be an issue for both consumers and shop owners.
While improved pedestrian walkways are expected to improve accessibility, the road widening will leave little space to park in front of many of the stores. Currently, California Tortilla seems to be one of the only stores with its own storefront parking.
Despite the construction, Rosales expects customers to continue to come back to the area.
“There are some complaints, but they know … this is Qatar,” Rosales said. “Qatar, you know, construction’s everywhere. They understand.”
Phase 1 complete
Meanwhile, several kilometers up the road, construction crews this week re-opened the stretch of C-Ring from Umm Ghuwailina (VIP) Roundabout to midway between Najma and Mansoura intersections (more commonly known as Toyota and Gulf Cinema signals, respectively).
Along with converting VIP Roundabout into a signalized intersection, this section of C-Ring Road was widened from three lanes to four in each direction.
Work finished on schedule, wrapping up over the weekend with one final headache for motorists, who were hit with an unannounced diversion at Toyota Signal on Friday as construction crews laid the final layer of asphalt.
Ashghal said it is still paving sidewalks in the area, as well as completing landscaping works.