The re-alignment of a major intersection in downtown Braselton has made it difficult for customers to get to businesses, according to some merchants.
“They get confused now,” said Jennifer Franklin, a dental hygienist with Braselton Family Dentistry, located in the lower level of the Braselton Brothers Store complex.
In the weeks since Braselton finished the rerouting of the former Ga. Hwy. 124 (now called Davis Street in the area) with its intersection of Ga. Hwy. 53, business operators say their customers are having a tough time navigating the new roadway and parking. The road changes have dramatically changed how downtown Braselton looks for those who know the area.
“The tourists are not having difficulty finding how to get here to our store,” said Robbie Bettis, who operates the Braselton Antique Mall. “It’s the local people, who know the local traffic and know the shortcuts; they know other ways to go.”
When Braselton rerouted Davis Street, it brought the former state highway from the front of the town-owned Braselton Brothers Store complex to the rear of the building. A traffic light was installed at the new intersection with Ga. Hwy. 53.
The former path of Davis Street — at the old intersection of Ga. Hwy. 53, in front of the store and next to the Gwinnett Clinic — was closed when the realignment project was finished. A curb was also installed to block vehicles from turning directly from Ga. Hwy. 53 to a gravel parking lot in front of the building.
Instead, customers will park in a new lot on the side of the Braselton Brothers Store complex. Customers are being allowed to park in front of the building once they drive through a new access area.
Braselton has plans to make the area in front of the building its town green — a concept generally similar to Suwanee Town Center, though Braselton hasn’t designed its town green.
Meanwhile, the town is working with architects to reconfigure the Braselton Brothers Store so that it has additional access facing the new alignment of Davis Street.
The town is expected to award a bid on the reconfiguration project in August with construction possibly starting in November, according to town manager Jennifer Dees. The reconfiguration project may be finished in March 2013.
But in the meantime, some businesses in the Braselton Brothers Store complex say the recent road changes are affecting their financial bottom lines.
Bettis said sales at the antique mall are down 20 percent, compared to this time last year. She said she hasn’t asked the town to reduce rent to offset the drop in revenue.
Braselton gets $1,500 a month in rent from the Braselton Antique Mall, $1,000 a month in rent from the Braselton Tile Factory and $780 a month in rent from Braselton Family Dentistry, according to Dees. There is also a vacant space in the complex.
The tile business asked for a rent reduction, but the town doesn’t plan to reduce rates, she said. The rents are low for the square footage of the businesses, Dees added.
Developer Wayne Mason donated the more than 100-year-old store complex to the town in 2009. Rent from its downtown properties is used in the town’s general fund budget.
Dees said the re-alignment of Ga. Hwy. 124 (Davis Street) took almost a decade from the time it was initially proposed until completed in early June.
“I now it’s hard, when your customers are used to one thing, to retrain them,” Dees said.
Dental hygienist Franklin said she has stood outside to direct patients to the office, while others haves complained about the parking. One frustrated woman skipped her dental appointment after she couldn’t figure out how to get to the office.
Another road project in Braselton — the widening and re-alignment of Zion Church Road — is also complicating matters for motorists. That roadway is now the alignment of Ga. Hwy. 124. Locally, it is called Lewis Braselton Blvd., Zion Church Road and Broadway Avenue — depending on its location.
Dees pointed out that the realignment of Zion Church Road shifted some traffic away from downtown Braselton.
The Braselton Downtown Development Authority recently agreed to erect temporary signs pointing motorists to the area, but it will wait to construct permanent signs until a downtown director is hired this fall.