Ocala merchants ready for downtown renovations to be completed


OCALA, Fla. - A facelift in the heart of downtown Ocala is frustrating some local merchants.

The downtown square is in the midst of a big renovation project. Some of the merchants told Channel 9's Berndt Petersen that the construction is chasing away customers.

They said the remodel will help them, but right now, the construction is hurting.

Construction crews are about halfway through the facelift for Ocala's downtown square. The work will be finished in another eight weeks or so. That is none too soon for some local merchants.

"People think the entire downtown is closed down when they drive by. It's a misconception by the public," said downtown merchant Teresa Dunnam. "Everyone is reporting [business is] a little bit down. I have two businesses. One was up, the other, which is usually up, is a little down."

Another complaint some of the merchants have concerns parking problems. A lot of the parking spaces are occupied by construction vehicles.

It's not an expensive project by city standards -- $200,000 for a new stage, brick pavers and a few other upgrades.

Some merchants said the work has not hurt their businesses, and all are looking forward to the new look and more customers as a result.

"Anytime you can improve a city to attract more people to it, all these little stores always could use help," said shopper Phil Noyce.