Chandler Lipe is ready to stop thinking about the sidewalk.
On Monday, the owner of The Den, a coffee shop catering to parents at 2900 Zuni St. in LoHi, received messages from neighbors and customers with pictures of the sidewalk in front of her store completely torn up.
On Tuesday afternoon, orange construction cones blocked the path and a truck backed in front of the door to The Den to pour fresh concrete.
Lipe opened the business on April 29. She said the city has been doing construction in front since the first week of May, and that she’s struggled to get any information.
“I was flailing around in the dark trying to figure out who to talk to, what was happening and for how long it was going to be happening,” Lipe said.
Lipe said Tuesday was the worst day so far, with wet concrete blocking her only entrance, and it pushed her to seek legal counsel.
“What are my rights as a small business? What responsibilities does the city have to communicate these things to me?” Lipe asked. “I was trying to have a trusting energy around this.”
Lipe said people often assume The Den is closed because of construction. On Tuesday, a customer crossed through the work zone for a latte; Lipe served him before politely noting he’d be trapped inside by wet cement if he didn’t take it to go. Thirty minutes later, a BusinessDen reporter had to climb over a countertop and under a garage door to leave the shop.
“They have effectively closed us sporadically without any communication,” Lipe said. “How could I be open right now? It’s getting blasted by water, they’re laying cement, there’s sparks coming up.”
Lipe originally opened The Den to be a safe haven for parents. It offers coffee and pastries and is equipped with a child-friendly space for parents to connect and kids to play.
But with a rocky, unpaved pathway to get in, construction crews surrounding the building and debris in the air, Lipe said people don’t want to bring their children in.
“Even if people consciously say ‘I understand,’ we as consumers also have a subconscious experience, so if it’s weirdly blocked or if it feels unsafe to enter, that’s a huge problem for me in building this community,” Lipe said.
The construction at Zuni and 29th is part of a larger project to make intersections ADA accessible, according to Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI). Construction Manager Patrick Riley said that each intersection varies, but the majority take around three months to complete.
Riley said the concrete work was supposed to be completed Monday, when The Den is closed, but it was pushed to Tuesday because of unforeseen problems. He said the entire project will be mostly finished after construction crews lay asphalt next week.
Lipe said the project is “important,” but the lack of communication has been crippling.
“We want to be supportive of that, but the way they’re going about it is so harmful to small business,” Lipe said. “They should’ve had open lines of communication from the beginning. They should’ve introduced themselves.”
DOTI’s Riley said the department does do community outreach before a construction project starts, but Lipe’s business “fell in the gap” because it opened right before construction started.
“It’s unfortunate … I don’t think it’s representative of DOTI,” Riley said. “We’re looking at the root cause of this and to put interventions in place to make sure our process closes these potential spots.”