How Light Rail Construction Could Help Some Phoenix Small Businesses

By Christina Estes
Published: Thursday, April 15, 2021 - 1:23pm
Updated: Thursday, May 13, 2021 - 9:57pm

Light rail construction downtown Phoenix
Tim Agne/KJZZ
Construction on the light rail's South Central Extension at Central Avenue and Lincoln Street in downtown Phoenix in October 2020.

Nearly 350 businesses in Phoenix are facing years of light-rail construction outside their doors. Two major projects are underway: the South Central Extension/Downtown Hub, a 5-mile extension connecting downtown to Baseline Road, and the Northwest Extension Phase II, which will extend the line from 19th and Dunlap Avenues to the west side of Interstate 17 at the former Metrocenter Mall.

Many customers will avoid the construction and, if history is any indication, some businesses will not survive. But Valley Metro thinks some businesses could emerge stronger.

During the city’s transportation subcommittee meeting, Eileen Yurish with Valley Metro shared information about a technical assistance program available at no charge to business owners.

“We’re working with them on the internal issues and in some cases providing them with services that a small business may have never been able to afford on their own, to bring in a professional consultant to come in and help them develop a website or help them set up an accounting system,” she said. “We can help them do those things and help position their business not only to help them through the construction process but to be able to put them in a stronger position for once construction is over and they’re able to take on new business, bring in new customers, add new projects or products or services into their business That’s what we’re hoping to do.”

Valley Metro said 69% of businesses along the South Central Extension/Downtown Hub construction corridor have taken part in at least one program while participation is 41% among businesses along the Northwest Extension Phase II corridor. Programs include: access signs to direct traffic to businesses, banners, deals and discounts map, meet and eat/grab and go events, technical assistance and direct financial assistance.

For the first time, Valley Metro and Phoenix are offering cash grants to locally-owned businesses immediately adjacent to light-rail construction with no more than 15 employees and no more than $500,000 in annual revenue.

The system breaks down this way:

  • Tier I: $3,000/year
  • Tier II: up to $9,000/year based on demonstrated business impact

An eligible business must have also been operating along the alignment before construction began and funding is meant to offset operating expenses including rent, payroll, utilities, etc.

More information on business assistance is available online for the South Central Extension/Downtown Hub and Northwest Expansion Phase II construction corridors.

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