News / Calgary

Construction on 61 Ave SW has Calgary shops worrying about layoffs, closures

Sales cut by half due to loss of pedestrian access from road construction - and now construction has been delayed further

The construction project aims to make the area safer for pedestrians, but has local businesses suffering when people can’t access their stores.

Aaron Chatha / Metro

The construction project aims to make the area safer for pedestrians, but has local businesses suffering when people can’t access their stores.

Despite being located on one of the busiest pedestrian corridors in Calgary, grinding construction is costing businesses along 61 Ave SW more than half their sales.

Just across from Chinook Mall, along the Chinook train station exit, construction on the sidewalk and road began at the end of May. Since then, shop owners said it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pedestrians – and vehicles – to reach them, which access points being closed off.

Businesses are reporting a 40 to 60 per cent drop is sales, and the outlook is grim as the construction project, originally slated to be finished in September, could continue into December.

As Metro reported, Chuckles costume shop has suffered a 50 per cent loss in sales, threatening the closure of their store.

Nearby Keith’s Deli estimates they’re losing 50 to 60 per cent of their customers every day, because it’s become so difficult to reach the store. Employees are losing hours because there are not enough customers.

“It’s food, you can get food a lot of places. My customers tell me they had to drive around so far just to get here,” said owner Jim Hannan. “It’s frustrating.”

John Munro, president of Artopia Studios, asked the city for signage to let people know businesses are still open despite the construction, but said nothing has been put up. Munro doesn’t count much on foot traffic any way – his art studio and classes are mostly booked in advance – but because of inaccessibility, many are finding it’s not worth their time to sign up.

“Saturday is my busiest day. I can have up to 60 people in the studio at one time. I had two people make it to the studio,” said Munro, recalling when the entire road was closed for the Thanksgiving long weekend.

Bo Jiang, manager of special projects for transportation, said the construction is to make the area safer for the large influx of pedestrians moving through, and to improve the lighting.

The delays have been a result of the larger than usual amount of rain over the summer months. Jiang said the city is committed to opening access for all businesses by December.

Although shop owners have criticized the city for not always having workers on site, Jiang said it’s often a case of balancing employees and suppliers with the weather, but someone is always working on the project, even if they’re not always visible.

Meanwhile, shop owners worry about surviving the construction period.

“It’s a really big deal. I still have to pay my rent and employees,” said Eva Virat, co-owner of Den and Divine Beauty Salon, which has seen a 40 per cent drop in sales. “Basically, I’m almost working for free.”

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