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Vernon Street prepares for return of SureWest

Businesses hope for more foot traffic
By: Scott Thomas Anderson, Editor
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With a number of downtown Roseville merchants reporting an increase in foot traffic along Vernon Street, news that SureWest Communications is relocating to the historic avenue is prompting hopes and a few concerns about how the arrival will affect ongoing revitalization efforts.

 Iva Calhoun is the director of the Multi-Cultural Youth Dance Group, a nonprofit organization that operates the Elite Celebrations boutique and gift shop at 230 Vernon Street. Calhoun has noticed a recent influx of customers that appears to coincide with the opening of Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar & Grill, located a few doors down.    

 “Lately, in the last few weeks, we’ve been selling a lot of quick gifts to people who are on their way to lunch,” Calhoun said. “I think Sammy Hagar’s place opening may be playing a role in that. Since we do gift wrapping, we have customers who pop in, make a purchase and then come back for it after lunch.”

 Given the blip in good fortunes connected to the Hagar restaurant, Calhoun greeted news that SureWest was moving its workforce back to Vernon Street with positive thinking.

 “If SureWest comes back, I think we’ll have more people on their way to lunch meetings and needing places to have office birthdays and things like that,” she said. “It’s a real possibility the foot traffic will bring more people through our doors.”

 Kenny Lai is the longtime owner of Denny’s Café, an unassuming restaurant positioned between where 80 SureWest employees currently work at 114 Vernon St., and the larger building where the rest of its employees will soon be settling in at 200 Vernon St. Lai has also noticed an uptick in activity in downtown since Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar and Grill opened; but he’s also noticed something else — ongoing parking issues for his customers.

 “I think it’s all right SureWest is coming back, but the only problem is parking,” Lai said. “The new restaurant has brought more people to Vernon Street, but all of our customers are dealing with two-hour parking. Plus, some of the employees who work in different shops on the street use parking spaces that are meant for customers, which is also hard on business.”

 Lai added that major construction projects around Vernon Street also seem to be adding to parking problems for people who eat at his business. 

 Recent adjustments to the downtown parking by the city may alleviate a degree of pressure on Vernon Street. According to Roseville Public Information Officer Brian Jacobson, the city currently has 75 all-day parking spaces in the Vernon Street area and is considering changing an additional 18 spaces from two and four-hour slots to unlimited parking.

 SureWest Corporate Communications Manager Anne Chacon noted that there are other parking options as well.

 “Probably the biggest single parking area is the city garage that’s across the street from the civic center,” Chacon said, referring to the 550-space parking complex next to the Blue Line Gallery. “We’ve been telling our employees that the garage is their best downtown parking option.”

 SureWest announced last month that it would vacate its Industrial Boulevard campus early next year. The company was recently purchased by Illinois based Consolidated Communications. Although there were some layoffs following the merger, no jobs are being lost in the move to the smaller Vernon Street site, Chacon said.

 “There were some layoffs across all our markets at the end of the acquisition,” she said. “But we haven’t had any recently, and the move to Vernon Street certainly isn’t causing any layoffs.”

 Similar to SureWest President of Operations Scott Barber, Chacon holds an encouraging view of what the company’s move can do for small businesses and the overall convenience of its own employees.

 “Our employees actually seem to be really excited about it,” Chacon said. “Any of them who have worked in the downtown area before have noticed the number of new places to eat and new businesses to shop at now. Even though we had a nice campus on Industrial Boulevard, employees were in a situation where, in order to go anywhere, they had to get in their cars and drive. Now they can just walk outside and enjoy the local restaurant or coffee shop down the street.”

 Scott Thomas Anderson can be reached at scotta@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at ScottA_RsvPT.