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Light at the end of the tunnel as Lebanon construction project winds down

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 5:08 PM EDT
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LEBANON, N.H. (WCAX) - The pandemic took a toll on businesses. In Lebanon, New Hampshire, a huge construction project in the center of the city compounded matters, driving customers away. But now things are looking up.

Finishing touches are being put on the multimillion-dollar facelift as the pandemic continues to wind down, a construction project in Lebanon that literally and figuratively represents a light at the end of the tunnel.

“It just feels like really hopeful,” said Sofia Amaro of West Lebanon.

Amaro was at Lalo’s Taqueria in Lebanon. It’s the corner location at the newly revamped outdoor mall.

“I think it looks a lot better,” she said. “It’s probably going to allow for a lot more people to come through.”

For more than a year, the spot was a construction site. Work continues on the $3 million project.

The taqueria opened last August, right before the height of the pandemic.

“There was the pandemic and no one was coming up at all, but then even the people that were coming out couldn’t necessarily find us,” said Makayla Ruel of Lalo’s Taqueria.

“Different parking areas were partially closed off, being able to walk around that, and it looked like it was under construction, so folks driving by they say, ‘You know, I’ll go somewhere else,’” Lebanon City Manager Shaun Mulholland said.

The point of the construction is to get people from point A to point B. A 300-foot tunnel under the mall will soon connect the 58-mile Northern Rail Trail to the Mascoma River Greenway.

“The rail-trail is a super popular place. It’s easy to tell people where to get to it. It’s a great, fun ride, very scenic,” said Jonathan Wilmot of Omer and Bob’s bike shop.

Unlike some businesses on the mall, Omer and Bob’s fared pretty well during the pandemic. Owners say the new tunnel will only help-- not just their business, but everyone around them.

“You want everyone to thrive,” Wilmot said.

On the other end of the mall, the city is working to make outdoor seating a permanent attraction. Foot traffic is on the rise. The taqueria has big plans.

“We already got approved to do live music outside, just to draw more people in,” Ruel said.

A grand opening celebration will be held here at the tunnel on July 8, just as the busy summer tourism season kicks into high gear.

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