CHARLOTTE, NC -- Wednesday's ceremonial groundbreaking of the Charlotte Streetcar starter project was welcome news for businesses on Elizabeth Avenue.
"We've all waited for this. I remember when they tore this street up, and killed a lot of great businesses, and a lot people lost a lot of money. Hopefully it becomes positive now," said Bob Edwards, developer.
On Wednesday, Edwards was scoping the empty storefront most recently vacated by "Smalls", a short-lived tapas-style restaurant. He previously helped to run "Leo's" down the block.
Back in 2009, overdue construction work to improve infrastructure and install the rail lines for the streetcar forced several restaurants to shutter. Originally expected to last six months, the project took two years to complete. Businesses complained customers couldn't get to their front doors.
"It was crushing."
Viva Chicken is a new Peruvian rotisserie restaurant under construction near the corner of Hawthorne Lane and Elizabeth Avenue. A Starbucks previously filled the location, but was shuttered during the construction delays.
"With this streetcar I think more people will come to this location," said Bruno Macchiavello, co-owner, Viva Chicken.
Although the rails are in place, city officials say new construction on the streetcar track will begin in January. Construction will be completed by 2015.
Charlotte's mayor and city council are in the middle of a budget battle discussing expanding the street car to 10 mile stretch from east Charlotte to west Charlotte.