EDMONTON – An area that has been hit hard by the extended closure of the 102 Avenue bridge was targeted by a cash mob Saturday.
The Local Good, 124th Street Business Association and the City of Edmonton worked together to organize the event in support of the businesses in the 124 Street/High Street area.
“Cash mobs are great,” said Barbara Dicurzio, co-owner of Head Shoulders Knees and Toes. “The amount of people walking into our store… It’s just amazing. We are really enjoying having people and being in the spirit today has really been great for everybody.”
She said the bridge construction and delays have “affected business considerably.”
“In this holiday season – and perhaps with some of the little more troubling parts of the economy right now – it certainly doesn’t hurt, when you are spending money, to put it towards locally-owned businesses,” cash mob organizer Tommy Kalita said.
“I know these businesses can use all the help that they can get.”
Several shops in the area have been struggling since the bridge closed for construction in July 2014. In August, the Bothy Wine & Whisky Bar said it was forced to shut down its 124 Street location because of the bridge construction.
The $32-million project was originally scheduled to be complete by September 2015, but after troubles with the bridge girders, the city said the opening date is now more likely to be fall of 2016.
Mayor Don Iveson attended the cash mob to do some Christmas shopping, alongside councillors Dave Loken and Scott McKeen.
“Talking to a couple of the business people, it’s been very positive so far,” Iveson said.
“They’ve seen a spike today. What I really want to see is that sustained.”
The mayor said council has heard the concerns from business owners in the area and is trying to help. The contractor will be paying penalties because of the bridge delays, but those penalties only cover costs the city bears, such as traffic detours. Iveson said there are no provisions in Municipal Government Act for business losses unless access is completely cut off.
“They’ve been under pressure because of this city bridge project and the delay with it,” McKeen said. “I’ve hated to see it and honestly lost some sleep over it. To me, areas like this are so integral to the character of Edmonton.
“These shops are run by independent business people and there’s no shop like this anywhere in the world,” McKeen added. “It just adds to that flavour of Edmonton and you hate to see them struggling.”
Iveson said the cash mob provided council and citizens with a tangible way to support area businesses.
“There’s real economic strength in supporting local businesses,” Iveson said. “They’re owned by people here, they then in turn invest in the economy here and they’re unique experiences that you can’t get anywhere else.
“In this area, on High Street and 124 Street, there are some great businesses.”
The city worked with Edmonton Transit to set up Park-and-Ride shuttle service to and from the neighbourhood.
“These businesses are still very much open for business, even though it’s a little tougher to get to them with the construction disruption,” the mayor said. “We really wanted to remind and encourage Edmontonians to come to support these businesses not just today but year-round.”