Restaurant owner Christian Mena is tired of all the construction in the center. Since the opening of its Sabor restaurant in 2008, construction has been non-stop, he said.
“In that time frame, the only year we have not had construction near us has been in the first year,” Mena said inside her restaurant along 103rd Street opposite the old Bay building.
Earlier in the summer, he said he closed his patio because it was not being used and the construction was too tight. Mena said the pandemic has been fierce and the addition of the challenge of operating with LRT and road construction means he has closed the restaurant during the day.
The once bustling center with over 60,000 workers is a fraction of what it used to be. Mena said there is very little pedestrian traffic in the center anymore. And because of all the roadblocks and detours, people do not even bother to come down to navigate it, he said.
“There was a point where you couldn’t really drive near the restaurant, you had to park a block away and then walk because everything was blocked,” he said.
“I don’t know to and from planning,” Mena said. “I would definitely like to see better planning come into force.”
‘Construction effects are crippling’
It’s just one of many complaints the Downtown Business Association in Edmonton hears every week. The association has helped companies turn around, survive and reinvent themselves during the pandemic and construction seasons.
The most frustrating problem Puneeta McBryan has heard from companies is the rollout of projects and how it limits them from getting people to return. McBryan is the CEO of the Downtown Business Association.
“The construction effects are crippling for some of these companies,” McBryan said. “The construction effects are almost comical right now. If it weren’t so frustrating and sad, it would be fun.”
McBryan credits the federal government’s emergency rents and wage subsidies to help keep many businesses in the center afloat. Without them, she said, many companies would not have been able to survive.
“I’m a little speechless about what the city and its construction partners think about what companies need to do to get through this,” McBryan said.
273 projects in the center: city
A total of 273 projects have been given the green light by the council worth over $ 7 billion, according to Adam Laughlin, deputy mayor for integrated services.
“This construction program we have is one of the most ambitious capital programs we have ever had in the city,” he said.
Laughlin said that while understanding corporate frustration, it is trying to coordinate $ 7 billion worth of projects from various levels of government — including LRT expansion, road and utility maintenance, and beautification of projects on Jasper Avenue — no doubt to come up with some challenges and overlaps.
“There is a strategic approach to ensuring that these projects are sequenced in a way to minimize impact, but unfortunately, construction is not an exact science,” Laughlin said.
However, there are some positives, according to Laughlin: urban projects are 90 percent on budget and 80 percent on schedule.
Recently, work on Jasper Avenue between 109th Street and 114th Street was completed. The new vision project for Jasper Avenue near 97th Street is also nearing completion and is expected to be completed in November.
“The projects we build are urban projects, there are lots of positive things … we build amazing infrastructure for edmontoniere,” Laughlin said.