Lethbridge businesses relieved as infrastructure work finishes

Click to play video: 'A look at what construction in downtown Lethbridge means to area businesses'
A look at what construction in downtown Lethbridge means to area businesses
WATCH: For months, parts of downtown Lethbridge have been under construction as the city looks to add infrastructure security and accessibility. As the project wraps up, Brandon Cassidy looks at what it all means to businesses in the area – Nov 29, 2023

On Aug. 9, the work began on water main renewal between 3rd and 6th avenues in Lethbridge, redoing the pavement along 4th and 8th Street and installing cycling lanes from Scenic to Stafford drives as well as along 7th Street South.

At the time, research found that installing bike lanes would not only make the downtown core more accessible, it would also increase tourism and foot traffic to the downtown core.

Initial forecasts said that this project would take until the end of October, but as with most things construction, there were delays.

“A construction project like this is never easy,” explained Bryce Dudley, senior transportation project manager for the City of Lethbridge.

“As soon as we dig into the deep utilities, there’s quite often things that are challenging … lots of unknowns. Some of these pipes are not where they should be, not the same material that they should be, that kind of stuff.”

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Although the replacement of water mains is completed, needing no further work, there are other elements of the project that require some finishing touches.

Click to play video: 'Multi-faceted construction project underway in downtown Lethbridge'
Multi-faceted construction project underway in downtown Lethbridge

“There’s not a whole lot left,” said Dudley. “There’s some line painting, some concrete work to be done down by the Herald, with some new improvements to the parking in that area. And we have to finish the last portion of the cycling lane which is between 6 Ave. and 7 Ave.”

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But for now, the work is done, and with it, a long exhale from various small businesses in the downtown core that have been struggling to deal with a significant drop in foot traffic due to the ongoing renovations.

“The last time we did the numbers we almost had to change our hours, we had to close down three days out of the week just to afford the operational cost,” said Idyl Indangan, owner of Ace Tea.

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Click to play video: 'A look at what construction in downtown Lethbridge means to area businesses'
A look at what construction in downtown Lethbridge means to area businesses

It’s a struggle known all to well by the Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ).

“Nobody closed down, but it was very very difficult for customers to get to the businesses” explained the BRZ’s executive director, Sarah Amies.

“Often the sidewalks would be closed or portions thereof, parking was at a massive premium while the construction was going on, so families with multiple little ones to trudge along to try to navigate and get to the business you’re trying to get to was tricky for folks, absolutely.”

According to the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, Ace Tea wasn’t alone in its plight. But as always, business finds a way.

“They’re trying to be creative, they’re trying to stay positive, but when you can’t properly access the business, it’s tough to ask people to come into your store,” explained Cyndi Bester, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.

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“They’ve had to adjust again, they’ve had to increase their online presence again, they’ve had to get creative with their marketing, different sales on different days. Instead of a Black Friday, it’s, ‘You know what? We’re going to have sales all week,’ type of scenarios.”

Click to play video: 'Road construction rolls on in downtown Lethbridge'
Road construction rolls on in downtown Lethbridge

With the markings finally down, the roads reopened and life can finally get back to normal. The clear markings and signage make the new and improved area easier to navigate.

“In the long run, though, I mean, 7th Street is opened up. It’s got a gorgeous bike lane, which is fantastic for the bikers in town,” Amies told reporters. “Sixth, 5th and 4th all have got ‘line envy’ right now because the lines that have been painted on 7th Street and 4th Avenue are just beautiful.”

“I want to thank all the businesses and downtown visitors for their patience. I know it hasn’t been easy, but all the road closures are done,” said Dudley.

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“Come on down and do your Christmas shopping.”

Even with the work extending into next year, the project is still expected to remain within the $4-million budget, finishing completely by next spring.

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