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Editorial: Don’t avoid downtown during work

Work on the Franklin County Courthouse renovation and expansion has picked up steam in recent days.

Construction workers have been busy inside and out at the site, creating different traffic patterns south from the corner of Main and Hope streets. Sidewalks have been temporarily closed and Hope Street has been narrowed as it runs along that side of the project.

Within the gates surrounding the work, it’s all hustle and bustle during the day ... what you would expect with a project that when finished is expected to cost $60 million and take three years to complete.

And activity in and around the courthouse is going to ramp up, we suspect, in the coming months. One can say that the construction project represents a temporary inconvenience since the end result should be a courthouse that is a better fit in for the 21st century than its 1930s-vintage predecessor.

There are changes to traffic patterns as well. The intersection of Hope and Main streets has always been busy — what with the courthouse, the back entrance to the YMCA and the businesses along the street, including The Recorder. Thus, with parking spaces removed, sidewalks closed and fences and barriers erected, it can all seem like routes to avoid in the short term.

Again, a temporary inconvenience that during the next three years or so will have little impact.

Yet there’s an aspect of this project that is likely having an impact that isn’t minor — it involves the restaurants and shops that have seen a drop in customers since the move of courthouse offices and services, mostly to the Greenfield Corporate Center on Munson Street. Whether it was courthouse patrons grabbing a coffee or lunch or using the time to do a little shopping during a break, that traffic, and their spending, has decreased.

Hard numbers are not available, but in casual conversations, business owners are talking about it ... and we’d say that this change in business over a three-year period has to make it tougher for those stores and eateries, which weren’t enjoying an economic windfall to begin with.

With a continued focus on “buying local,” we urge people to do more than talk about that goal, and to make sure to frequent the restaurants, shops and businesses in Greenfield — particularly on the east end of Main Street — even if the courthouse project has created some inconvenience.

And don’t forget that The Recorder is still on Hope Street, still open for business, and still easily accessible through that convenient sidewalk that runs down off Main between the old Masonic Hall and All Souls Church!

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