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‘We need a break’: 17th Ave. businesses frustrated as disruptive construction starts again

Continuing construction along 17th Avenue S.W. in Calgary has some business owners worried they might not be able to survive.

Now into its seventh year, the latest phase of the major reconstruction effort of the busy hub includes sidewalk improvements and electric system upgrades.

It has some walkways bleeding off, detours in place and parking limited along the route.

“I mean, it’s noisy (with) backing-up cement trucks and fencing going up and concrete drilling and pouring and scraping and smashing up the sidewalks,” said Andrea Harling of the disruptions.

Harling is the operating partner and executive chef of V Burger and The Sweatered Hen and the work happening this week is directly out front of the restaurant.

“We had a rough week, this week. Seventy-five per cent of sales we lost, which as a new business hurts,” she said.

“Had we known that this was happening, we could have planned a little bit better.”

The phased work to revitalize 17th Avenue has been happening since the spring of 2017.

The current detours are expected to be finished by the end of June to allow for expanded patios along the street by next month, the city said.

“It’s been multiple years of construction. It’s a bit of a pain,” said William Mallais-O’Keefe, a trainer at Rumble Boxing Studio.

“There’s some businesses that are missing out on a client because they just don’t want to do that simple walk because of the construction, for sure.”

In a statement, a city spokesperson says they worked with the area’s Business Improvement Area to notify all impacted areas about the timelines of the work.

“The city worked closely with the business community to develop a construction staging plan that considers the expanded patio program and special events that benefit 17th Avenue businesses, and which sequences the construction in smaller sections to minimize disruptions to the overall business area,” it read.

Harling says the latest sidewalk work came with little warning and didn’t allow them to adjust their staffing levels and food orders for fewer customers.

“You know, you gotta roll with the punches and do what you can but at this point, it’s like, we need a break,” she said.

The city has rolled out a pilot program, the Main Streets Business Support Grant, to provide $5,000 in funding to businesses impacted by construction in Marda Loop and Bridgeland.

However, a city spokesperson says it is not considering extending the program to other businesses, such as the ones along 17th Avenue, this year. 

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