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Business owners on 17 Avenue say work delays swaying their votes

Council and mayoral candidates drop in to talk shop with frustrated group

Calgary mayoral candidate Bill Smith accepts a business card from Chad McCormick of TMAC Pub and Restaurant Group at an open house on 17 Avenue Wednesday.

Brodie Thomas / Metro Web Upload

Calgary mayoral candidate Bill Smith accepts a business card from Chad McCormick of TMAC Pub and Restaurant Group at an open house on 17 Avenue Wednesday.

Municipal election candidates courted Business owners on 17 Avenue Wednesday as they raised concerns about the ongoing construction delays.

Ernie Tsu, owner of Trolley 5 brewpub, hosted the open house for other business owners.

He said the city has strayed from its original plan, which was to have two blocks at a time closed for repairs to utilities, pavement and sidewalks.

"We're currently at five-and-a-half to six blocks of road closure," said Tsu.

He told the business owners the pace of work needs to become an election issue.

Travis Burke, owner of The Big Cheese Poutinerie, said the project has absolutely changed the way he plans to vote.

"Change is needed," he said, adding that he still hasn't decided which mayoral candidate will get his vote.

He did say he would like to see an entirely new council after next Monday.

One of the people gunning for his vote – Bill Smith – dropped by the meeting to shake a few hands and say a few words.

He told the business owners how he had once based his law practice in Mount Royal Village, but when his lease came up and he got wind of the city's plans to upgrade 17 Ave SW, he moved his practice to Eau Claire.

"My understanding is that the city has not quite fulfilled the commitment they made to you guys in how the construction would be scheduled and how it would be conducted," said Smith. "If I'm successful next week, we'll make sure we get things back on track."

Also present was Ward 8 Candidate Chris Davis. He said it would seem the city has missed the mark in consulting with business owners as the project went on.

"It's not about the engineering, it's not about the city doing work, it's about remembering the human side," he said.

Davis said he wants to make sure there are still storefronts open once the city's upgrades to the street are done, rather than just for lease signs.

"It can be done better and we're seeing the result of it not being done better here today," said Davis.

Logan Tolsma, an engineer and project manager for the 17 Avenue upgrades, explained to Metro last week that part of the delays are due to unanticipated problems that crop up once workers have broken ground.

One delay he noted was due to problems with trenching for the trees that will be planted along the sidewalk.

"We know that we're impacting these businesses and we're trying as hard as we can to continue to advance and get out of there," he said.

Esther Kelly, executive Director of the 17 Avenue Retail and Entertainment District BIA said businesses understand that unexpected things come up.

"I think al the business owners are very rational," she said. "They're entrepreneurs, they understand how sometimes surprises happen."

She said the complaint she's hearing now is about lack of communication from the city on what's happening.

"It's just a matter of making sure that line of communication is open,' she said.

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