Calgary

Calgary rethinks 17th Avenue overhaul as businesses sound alarm

The city is re-evaluating plans for a major reconstruction of 17th Avenue S.W. in response to concerned business owners along Calgary's vibrant stretch of restaurants, bars and shops.

'The traffic closure is like the death blow after all these other kind of hurdles'

Sam Friley, owner of Buttermilk Fine Waffles, says the looming road closures associated with the 17th Avenue makeover could be the 'death blow' for some businesses that are already struggling. (Natasha Frakes/CBC)

The city is re-evaluating plans for a major reconstruction of 17th Avenue S.W. in response to concerns of business owners along Calgary's vibrant stretch of restaurants, bars and shops.

"Through February, we'll reach out to communities and businesses as we review our work so far," the city said on Twitter. 

"Our goal is to produce the best construction plan and way forward for this project and the citizens who visit, work and live in the area." 

The $44-million project includes rebuilding sidewalks, improving lane designs, adding crosswalks, completely replacing the asphalt and upgrading the utilities underneath — power, gas, telecommunications, water and sanitary.

As it stands, the current plan includes sections of the popular strip being completely closed for months at a time.

'Really worrying'

For example, from April until August, there would be no through-traffic on 17th Avenue between Fifth Street and Sixth Street S.W.

Tahir Khan, who owns Philosafy Coffee on 17th Avenue, says even minor construction work outside his business drives customers away. (Natasha Frakes/CBC)

Tahir Khan, who owns Philosafy Coffee on that stretch of the avenue, says that's his busiest season.

"If there is construction outside, I doubt it anyone would be willing to sit outside in the sun," he said.

Khan says even when the city did relatively minor road construction a few weeks ago, sales dropped 50 per cent. He believes many potential customers assumed his café was closed.

"It's really worrying us," he said.

'Death blow'

Sam Friley, who owns Buttermilk Fine Waffles a few blocks to the east, contacted his local city councillor to complain about the existing work schedule, which would see his block closed to traffic from July through October.

"It's just another obstacle in a series of very difficult obstacles," Friley said, pointing to a recent spike in property taxes to hit businesses in the Beltline.

"The traffic closure is like the death blow after all these other kind of hurdles," he added.

Both Friley and Khan say they're hopeful the city will come up with a better solution.

The city's overhaul of 17th Avenue S.W. is pegged to cost $44 million. (City of Calgary)

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