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End of construction raises hopes for Hillsborough Street businesses

During construction on Hillsborough Street that lasted for more than a year, some restaurants lost money for months and nearly closed for good, but the return of students this weekend boosted business, the restaurant manager said.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Hillsborough Street business owners hope their cash flow picks up as a yearlong construction wraps up and students return to campus.

Businesses have been coping with the chaos of construction since May 2009 when crews began a $9 million project to transform the four-lane street in the heart of North Carolina State University's campus into two-lane avenue with on-street parking.

"When school is gone, plus the construction, it was really bad," said Fredy Alvarez, manager of the El Rodeo Mexican restaurant.

El Rodeo has been losing money for months and nearly closed for good, but the return of students this weekend boosted business, he said.

"Yesterday was the busiest day that we have had in the last year and seven months," Alvarez said.

Wing Zone owner Joy Morrison said the road construction discouraged traffic along Hillsborough Street and reduced the restaurant's visibility.

"Before when we had all the construction and stuff, a lot of people couldn't see us," she said. "But now it is pretty wonderful."

Morrison said she's counting on more business since the construction is nearly complete, much of it ahead of schedule. She has hired seven new employees for the restaurant.

A few new businesses have already opened along Hillsborough Street.

A community celebration called "Live It Up on Hillsborough Street" will be held Sept. 25 to celebrate the completion of the redesign and construction.

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