City builds new entrance for business owner who said he lost $50,000 due to construction

City Construction Impacts Local Business

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The day after ABC7 told you that a business owner has lost at least $50,000 in business due to construction, the City of Sarasota kept their promise to construct a new entrance for Zsolt Lele’s business.

Lele told ABC7 that the City of Sarasota blocked off the entrance of his property on Gillespie Avenue for the last five months because of an ongoing construction project.

“When was the last time I opened that gate? Five months ago,” showed Lele.

You can hear the frustration, even through his Hungarian accent.

“I’m an artist. I make art of the wood, so when I see that, I’m very disappointed and very sad,” he explained.

Sad because the entrance to his business Wonderwood Art has been blocked for months.

“I get phone calls, many phone calls for inquiries for service and I skip them," Lele said. 'Because I’m completely blocked. This is my main entrance there. So I keep the grass growing because this is reflective of how long nothing has happened.”

Weeds four feet tall prove just how long it’s been.

Lele’s landlord was nice enough to let him expand to the other side of the property for now, but even that doesn’t fix his problem. The wood Lele sculpts is far too large to fit through the small hallway to the other entrance.

“It’s not right," Lele said. "You can’t isolate a business. If I parked in the front of your home, in front of your driveway, right away you’ll tow my car and also call the police.”

Staff said the project manager has been instructed to have better communication with these neighboring businesses and the Utilities Director vowed to come out to the property to help find a solution with this owner.

“All he has to do is just let us know," said the City’s Utilities Director, Bill Riebe.

Riebe said they were unaware of the impacts to Lele’s business and are more than willing to be accommodating.

“The contractor’s doing its best to expedite, complete the work as fast as we can," said Riebe. "It’s just taking longer than anyone thought.”

The city anticipated this project would be a quicker fix, two months at the most. But when crews ripped up the ground, they discovered nearly 400 feet of piping under Gillespie Avenue needed to be replaced. It’s an effort to prevent another pipe burst like the one that spilled nearly one million gallons of sewage back in December.

“If it fails, it’s not going to be good,” said Riebe.

On Tuesday, city staff kept their promise. Crews constructed a new entrance for Lele’s business.

The city said this project will be done by the end of October.

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