Bridge closure worries High Street businesses

The city will close 102 Avenue on July 1 so crews can demolish the old bridge and build a new one. Work is scheduled to be completed by fall of 2015.

On July 1, 102 Avenue bridge over Groat Road will close until fall 2015

Crews are already doing preparation in advance of the July 1 road closure. (CBC)

Businesses in the High Street area of Edmonton are worried that closure of the 102nd Street bridge will affect their bottom line.

The city will close 102nd Avenue on July 1 so crews can demolish the old bridge over Groat Road and build a new one. Work is scheduled to be completed by fall of 2015.

The closure means that the estimated 25,000 drivers who take that route each day will detour elsewhere.

"We will see a lot less traffic," said Barbara Di Curzio, co-owner of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, a children’s clothing store on 102nd Avenue and 125th Street.

Barbara Di Curzio, co-owner of a children's store, is worried how the road closure will affect her business. (CBC)

"You’re not seeing a rejuvenation of new customers. A local business thrives when we have new customers on a continual basis."

In the city’s eyes, the closure is a necessary evil. The current structure is 100 years old and at the end of its useful life. The new bridge will have wider lanes and sidewalks as well as space for bike lanes.

“It’s going to be more user friendly for all travellers,” said Byron Nicholson, director of special projects for the city.

Nicholson says the city is providing shuttle buses to transport commuters around the detour and providing additional metered parking.

The closure is the last straw for Tamara Baltzan. The owner of TK Clothing on 124th Street is shutting down for good after 15 years of business.

Her lease was up in August but the construction played a role in making her leave for good.

"All this is happening and then we're going to add a bridge closure for 15 to 18 months?” she asked. “It seemed a bit much.”

NAIT marketing instructor Surjit Rai says business owners can't plan for unexpected roadblocks like this.

"You're talking about thousands (of dollars) every month at least these companies will lose,” he said. “And will they be able to mitigate all those losses?  Absolutely not.”

But not everyone believes the closure will be a disaster.

Carol Logan of Carol’s Quality Sweets in the High Street Mall believes customers will keep coming.

"I think that lots of shoppers will come because this is a destination in Edmonton," said Logan. 

But Di Curzio says she’s already seeing an impact as crews prepare for construction. She and her business partner are thinking up ways to draw customers to the store while the bridge is closed.

"We'll make changes as we have to and we'll adjust."