Jerusalem Garden, a small Mediterranean restaurant, has been an Ann Arbor mainstay since 1987. But even Ann Arbor residents may have a hard time locating the restaurant since it’s currently hidden behind cement trucks and orange construction barrels.

The construction is part of a project to build an underground parking garage located at South Fifth and East Liberty Streets, right next to Jerusalem Garden. The project started in September 2009, and the construction company estimated it will be complete by the end of the spring.

Ali Ramlawi, the owner of Jerusalem Garden since 1993, said he is upset with the slow and prolonged construction process.

“It’s been going on for longer than any other project I can conceive of,” Ramlawi said. “The problem is the duration.”

Some of the problems Jerusalem Garden is facing are a lack of lighting and signage, lack of parking, limited accessibility for pedestrians and difficulty receiving deliveries.

Ramlawi added that in fiscal quarters since the beginning of construction, his restaurant has experienced up to a 20-percent loss in business, which has made the restaurant difficult to sustain. Ramlawi expressed his frustration with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and city officials and said the project “was poorly planned (and) poorly executed.”

“They do little to alleviate the stress (from the construction),” Ramlawi said. “They have done very little to make sure small businesses stay in business. You’re kind of left on your own. The level of assistance they’ve offered … is almost insulting.”

Ramlawi said he thinks the project was not the best use of city funds.

“For $50 million, we could be doing a lot more for our city,” he said.

Still, Ramlawi said he is grateful for Jerusalem Garden’s “strong following,” and without its loyal costumers, the restaurant may have had to close up the shop. Ramlawi added that he thinks the biggest challenges as a result of the construction are in the past, “but it has not been a pleasant trip.”

Pat Podges, vice president of Southeastern Michigan operations for Christman Company, the construction company for the project, acknowledged that the construction is causing problems for local businesses, and the company is highly sympathetic to those affected.

“We understand that this has been a disruptive process,” Podges said.

According to Podges, the construction should be finished by the end of this coming spring, though much of the progress depends on the weather.

“(We) work as quickly and as diligently as we can,” Podges said. “We certainly appreciate their patience.”

Like Ramwali, Lenore Ojibway, a hostess at Seva — a vegetarian restaurant around the corner from the construction on East Liberty Street — said the long duration of the construction is concerning.

“The customers don’t complain about it, but it was supposed to be done a year ago, and it’s frustrating,” said Ojibway, adding that the construction hasn’t largely impacted business at Seva.

Herb David, owner of Herb David Guitar Studio at 302 East Liberty St., expressed frustration with the progress of the construction and said it has negatively affected his guitar repair and retail shop.

“Business before this was great …” David said. “Business is down (now) 45 to 50 percent.”

David acknowledged that the goal of the future parking structure is to “create a vibrant downtown community,” but said the construction is a major hassle that has kept costumers away.

The famous guitar shop, which has catered to renowned musicians such as Bob Dylan and John Lennon, has been located on East Liberty Street for more than 50 years. David said he hopes the store can continue operating at its current location, but the recent construction and troubled economy have made it difficult for his small business to do so.

“We’ve had to reduce our staff,” he said. “It’s a really bad situation.”

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