The vibrant Backstreet Art District in Palm Springs is facing a severe setback as a massive county construction project has left gallery owners pleading for help.
For at least the past six months, a road leading to the district has been blocked due to a Riverside County flood control project, making it nearly impossible for businesses to operate effectively.
"They've made it as difficult as they can for us," said Tom Ross, a gallery owner in the art district. Ross's business, along with about a dozen other galleries, have experienced a significant decline in business due to the lack of customer access caused by the ongoing construction.
Describing the area surrounding his shop as a "warzone," Ross highlighted the piles of dirt, earth movers, and constant noise emanating from the construction site. The project aims to install underground pipes and convey stormwater away, but the communication regarding the project has been abysmal, according to Ross. He said the businesses themselves were forced to put up signage to redirect customers.
Julianna Poldi, an artist whose work is displayed in Ross's gallery, shared her concerns about the dire situation. "Now there's zero customers coming through," she said. "If you don't make any sales because you don't have customers, it's taking a big toll on the income," Poldi said.
With street traffic remaining blocked, there is a growing fear that the galleries in the Backstreet Art District may be forced to close their doors permanently.
City officials, including Palm Springs City Manager Scott Stiles and Councilmember Christy Holstege, recently visited the construction site to assess the situation. A Palm Springs spokesperson said the city's inspectors have consistently urged the Riverside County Flood Control to improve the signage and cleanliness of the project.
According to a flood control district agenda from February this year, the project is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2023.
News Channel 3 reached out to the county for a response but has not received a response.
Backstreet Art District hosts its "First Wednesday Artwalk" year-round from 5-7 p.m.