Ultimately, a prime four-block stretch of Calle 47 will be a welcoming “foodie corridor” or “restaurant row,” highlighting some of Mérida’s finest restaurants and lodging.
But today, Calle 47 is a series of trenches and rock piles, and the people who live, work and try to do business there are frustrated. Endless clouds of dust scatter for blocks. Even on Sunday mornings, the area endures the rat-a-tat-tat and beeeep beeeep of drills and heavy machinery.
The project, which when finished reduces traffic to one lane and emphasizes pedestrian spaces to highlight the restaurants, was approved in early July 2022. Work began the following October, at first slowly, with banners overhead announcing road detours.
Since January, work has ramped up. Workers — who said they are unhappy with the seven-day schedule — are replacing water lines and burying electrical cables. They are also starting to hear it from the property owners who are fed up with a construction zone playing out at their doorsteps.
Some restauranteurs, who preferred not to be identified, adopted a wait-and-see attitude. They acknowledged that, in the end, the project will beautify the street and benefit everyone. But their businesses are forced to weather conditions today that are driving away customers forced to park blocks away and then traverse a filthy obstacle course.
During construction, electricity and internet have been unreliable and property owners were told to prepare for water outages lasting two weeks. That would force restaurants to close. But it was not clear when the outages would begin, making it impossible to plan inventory and make announcements to customers. There are no programs to reimburse business owners for lost revenue.
Parking along Calle 47, from 56 to 48, is gone for good, renderings of the project show. That has made street parking more scarce for blocks — just as more businesses are projected to open.
Restaurants might be able to offer valet parking, but it is not known whether that is feasible under the new design.
The corridor connects the Paseo and park project at La Plancha, where construction is also at a fevered pace. Workers were unclear whether street work will continue east of the park, past the former train station.
Casa Lecanda, a boutique hotel, was the first upscale business to open on a then-sleepy Calle 47, east of the Paseo de Montejo. (Calle 47 west of the Paseo has always been busy.) It was in 2011, and the road was much quieter, a mix of offices, quiet businesses and residential homes.
Then Oliva Enoteca — a restaurant from the same family that built Lecanda — kicked off a restaurant boomlet. Soon, smoked oysters and some of the best steaks in the city were being served in the neighborhood. A food court complex pushed boundaries, installing a dance club on one side and an open-air patio for live music on the other.
The economic effects of the gastronomic corridor are already evident. Rents have risen dramatically, and some long-vacant properties are being renovated. What becomes of the residents still living on Calle 47 remains unclear. If they care to sell, however, their property values may have increased significantly.
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