The Miami-Dade County improvement project along parts of Old Cutler Road in Cutler Bay is making progress after beginning roughly a year ago, but area businesses are suffering from reduced access and traffic problems that are keeping customers away.
“It’s killing us,” said Barbara Carvajal of Rodbenders Rawbar at 20400 Old Cutler Rd. in Cutler Bay. “Everyone coming from the north, they just totally don’t come this way anymore. Because of that circle they have to detour so much.
“A lot of people come in here and tell us they almost just said ‘the heck with it’ because they couldn’t figure out how to get here. The county is saying they’re ahead of schedule and it will be done by October or November. Thank God for our regular customers, but new customers we just don’t see anymore.”
She said there were four businesses that already had closed down — the dog groomer next door, an insurance agency, Panini Grill across the street and Anacapri Restaurant.”
The project is designed to greatly improve the road surface, curbing, sidewalks and the bike path along a substantial portion of Old Cutler Road, with some landscaping as well. Once completed it will enhance the neighborhoods currently affected.
“We’re managing to struggle through, but it’s affecting us,” said Barbara Wilson of Blooming Gardens, 20462 Old Cutler Rd. “People don’t come in the area that much. Because of the work they go around. But in some respects it has been a little bit positive for us because they closed down one of the driveways here and left the one open by the shop, so anybody that comes and goes will go past us.
“When they eventually close down this one it will make it worse. The restaurants have suffered more than anybody, and Publix is really hurting,” she added. “They can’t do business unless people come in the door.”
Mercy Hernandez, director of Old Cutler Academy, a developmental preschool program which is located at 20222 Old Cutler Rd., said her business has also been adversely affected by the road closures.
“It has hurt our business tremendously.” Hernandez said. “I know it’s going to turn out beautiful and is for the betterment of the community and the neighborhood, but it has just been crazy, just horrible.” She said they lost so many parents who don’t want to contend with the pickup and drop-off every day because of all the closures.
“We just can’t wait for it to reopen and see if we can’t get some of the business back,” Hernandez said. “I’ve seen so many businesses close. I’m glad we’ve been able to stay open but it has really hurt us financially. It would be nice also if the landlords who own property in the community would help us out, but they’ve given us no help whatsoever.”
A few new businesses are opening in spaces vacated by former businesses that closed, but whether they can survive until the fall remains to be seen.