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      Hanover Square construction deadline looms

      A blanket of snow covers the Hanover Square construction site as businesses eagerly await the December 15 completion deadline.
      Tonight the city of Syracuse confirmed that the Hanover Square construction project, which has frustrated numerous businesses on the south side of the square, is still on schedule for its original December 15 completion date. But with six-foot chain link fencing surrounding the construction zone and bulldozers resting under an undisturbed blanket of snow, business owners are skeptical. "They didn't work the last few days because of the weather," said Bobby Fritcher, owner of Anthony's Pasta bar and Elbow Room Tavern. "Which is kind of shocking because there were a few days where the weather was in the 60s and they didn't work at all. It could have balanced out but it didn't get done." And with more snow in the forecast for this weekend, Fritcher fears the project could compromise even more business. "I had a lot of my bigger Christmas parties book from the 17th on because [the city] said they'd be done by the 15th, but right now it doesn't look like that's going to happen." But the city says the fences will come down beginning at 7 a.m. on Monday, December 16, reopening East Genesee Street to traffic, and freeing up highly sought-after parking spaces, for the first time in eight weeks. "It's hard for people to walk around the fence in this kind of weather. I get five or six calls a night from people saying they can't see us and don't know where we are. It's better now that the lights are on," Fritcher added. "It was kind of eerie before." Stores along the south side of E. Genesee Street were originally told that the fence, which was placed just five feet in front of their doors, would be moved back from store fronts in time for the annual holiday tree lighting ceremony in Clinton Square, a big night for downtown bars and restaurants. But owners arrived that Friday to see the fence still obscuring their visibility and diverting foot traffic from the square. A few days after we spoke with owners in Hanover Square last week, the fence was moved back and street lights along the south side of the street we turned on for the first time since the project began October 20. Service staff, who rely heavily on the tips they earn during the busy season that typically runs from the week of Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve, say that the lighting and wider pathway out front have helped. Though they continue to look on at their unobstructed neighbors with envy. And while businesses and service staff won't be able to make up for their losses in the first half of the holiday season, they're hopeful that their fortunes will turn around beginning Monday.