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Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

By Jon Ort

This September, as part of a collaborative infrastructure project between the New Jersey State Government and Mercer County's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, it was announced that Alexander Road would be closed for a duration of six months.

As of today, only 16 of the estimated 135 days of construction have elapsed. Yet the local business community is already feeling the effects of the closure. According to small business owners, the effects permeate far beyond Alexander Road and pose a serious threat to local businesses across Princeton moving into this holiday season.

Tony Vitella, the owner of Alexander Road's Metro North restaurant, responded emphatically when asked if he had begun to feel the impacts of the road closure.

"Absolutely. We are usually busier because a lot of our lunch customers comes from the Route 1 office buildings."

According to Vitella, many have wrongly assumed that the effects of this closure are going to be localized to businesses on Alexander Road itself, emphasizing that many parts of Alexander remain open to automotive and pedestrian traffic alike. The main problem, he predicts, is that consumers will be deterred from entering the town as Princeton's main vessel of traffic from Route 1 is cut off. 

Vitella went as far as to say, "I think everyone in Princeton is probably having some sort of issue, because I have been hearing a lot of people saying that they don't even want to come into Princeton."

The co-owner of Skillman Furniture, Michael Oliver, poses a counter to these predictions of grand impact arising from the Alexander Road closure. So far, Oliver has not seen an impact to business.

"It hasn't seemed to affect us much,” he said. “If they had closed it sooner, when school was opening, that could have been a problem, but going into the holiday season, not many people are looking for used furniture."

He theorizes that it is what, not where, you are selling that becomes the biggest factor in how much this closure will affect your business.

"[My business] is not like anything on Nassau Street where people might be walking by and say 'hey let's go look in this shop'. [Our clients] are looking for used furniture and they know about us."

As for now, the city maintains that the contractors tasked with this infrastructure project are pursuing an "aggressive" construction schedule. With 119 days left to go, many of those during peak holiday shopping, local business owners are counting the days and their dollars.

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