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Extended construction in Marda Loop creates further financial concern among businesses

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Marda Loop business owners are expressing concern over revenue losses after the City of Calgary announced construction in the area is expected to continue several months longer than planned.

The revamp of 33rd and 34th avenues S.W. was originally set to wrap up by the end of this year.

Now, it's expected to continue until summer 2025.

"I think businesses are sort of just trying to wrap their heads around it," said Bob van Wegen, president of the Marda Loop BIA.

"I think the biggest thing is communication. ... Businesses were told that by the end of this year, that construction will be done in Marda Loop, but again, here we are, recognizing that it's going to be another six months."

The project area runs from Crowchild Trail S.W. to 19th Street on 33rd Avenue and from Crowchild Trail to 18th Street on 34th Avenue.

According to the city, substantial completion of the 33rd Avenue section of the project is expected to be completed by late summer 2024.

Sections of 33rd and 34th avenues just east of 22nd Street will only be open to one-way traffic until August.

No parking will be available on 22nd Street between 33rd and 34th avenues until April 23, and alternating sidewalk closures will be in place in the area as well.

Grants 'a drop in the bucket': business owners

News of the extended construction isn't sitting well with several business owners and operators, who have now been offered a $5,000 grant by the city to compensate for some of their losses.

The lump sum was approved by council for businesses within one city block of construction in Marda Loop and Bridgeland and will be paid at some point within the second quarter of this year.

It accounts for 146 businesses in Marda Loop and 82 businesses in Bridgeland, meaning a potential city subsidy of more than $1.1 million through the Main Streets Capital Program.

"That won't even cover losses from last month's revenue. Not even close," said Lachlin Muir, general manager of Distilled Bar and Social House.

"It's helpful to know that the city wants to come in and try to mitigate some of that and lend a hand, but we're not looking for just grants. We would also like to look at the progress of construction and get a bit more communication."

Muir says his business has been forced to lay off employees and several of his customers often miss appointments because of a lack of available parking and added traffic congestion.

"You can't just lose month after month after month. That's just not a feasible option for anything," he said.

"We still have massive amounts of payroll to cover, our rent, which is exorbitant. ... We have timely payments, so if I was to give you a timeline, I mean, we may have a year left in us if this is kind of a task that we have to go through."

Boogie's Burgers on 33rd Avenue has seen a drop of 20 per cent of its revenue over the first few months of 2024.

General manager Brent De Decker says foot traffic in the area has decreased significantly.

"Some more support would be nice with how high our property taxes here are," he said.

"Having such low numbers, no foot traffic and no parking, having help in that area would be a big thing for the business. Just keeping businesses informed and letting us know what you're doing with a more clear, concise plan will help a lot."

City working to mitigate concerns

Graham Gerylo, infrastructure services manager of community business relations with the City of Calgary says his team has been working to interact with businesses and provide regular updates to help keep them informed on the status of construction.

He says tactics are also in place to help support businesses.

"One good example was on 33rd Avenue, where we added parking signage that we've been installing in Marda Loop to show where parking is available during construction," Gerylo said.

"Because now, we're having two-way streets converted to one-way streets. The signage isn't well oriented for Calgarians and so we saw this issue this year. The minute we put the signs up, cars were parking and customers were finding access to their businesses."

Gerylo says one of the main reasons construction will extend into 2025 is to help minimize some of the effects of future construction on businesses.

"That gateway on 33rd Avenue … will be complete by the end of this summer," he said.

"And then we as a city will work with the business improvement area to start making sure that the majority of Marda Loop is reopened to businesses and encourage Calgarians to come support the businesses and check out the new streetscape."

The city says its Main Streets project aims to attract visitors and prioritize pedestrian experiences.

It will include wider sidewalks, new streetlights, benches and cycle tracks installed along 33rd and 34th avenues.

Curb extensions or "bump-outs" at intersections also aim to make crossing distances shorter and safer for pedestrians.  

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