Some Vancouver businesses frustrated as Broadway Subway project impedes access, parking

Click to play video: 'Broadway Subway construction hurting businesses' Broadway Subway construction hurting businesses
Businesses along Vancouver's busy Broadway corridor say that as the SkyTrain extension mega-project ramps up, access to their shops and restaurants has become more difficult. Christa Dao reports. – Jan 18, 2022

Some businesses on the Broadway thoroughfare in Vancouver say they’re frustrated as construction on a subway line extension impedes access to their doorstep for customers.

Portions of the busy corridor, its sidewalks and parking stalls have been blocked off for months to accommodate work on the Broadway Subway Project, a 5.7-kilometre extension of the Millennium Line.

“It’s been brutal,” said Neil Wyles, executive director of the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association.

“There is no stopping, there’s no parking … I’ve had businesses leave just because you can’t get to them.”

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Construction began on the $2.38-billion project in May and the new line is not expected to open until 2025.

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When finished, it will include 700 elevated metres from VCC-Clark Station to a tunnel portal near Great Northern Way, and five kilometres tunneled below the Broadway Corridor from Great Northern Way to Arbutus Street.

Six underground stations will connect communities to the region, including a connection to the Canada Line at Cambie Street.

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Vancouver private school sues over Broadway subway line construction – Dec 14, 2021

The project, however, has impacted the bottom line for some businesses, who are now concerned they won’t survive to see the extension up and running.

“Unless their ultimate goal is to just drive us right off the street, I would hope they’re wanting to look for solutions that make it possible for us to be here by the time this project is done, because 2025 is a long way off,” said Catherine Ellsmere, co-owner of Odin Books, a mental health bookstore on Broadway.

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Foot traffic to her shop has essentially stalled, she told Global News, and Ellsmere is placing her hope in online sales and pre-orders.

“We’re a mental health bookstore, right? People come here because they have anxiety and if we make it so stressful and so anxiety-provoking to get here, it defeats the purpose,” she said.

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The B.C. Ministry of Transportation said it was unable to respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming has previously said “very extensive consultations” were conducted with businesses along Broadway in advance of the project, but the street will remain open throughout construction.

Stopping along portions of it, however, are forbidden until July 28, 2023, according to signs posted on some parts of the street.

Click to play video: 'Broadway traffic disruptions for new Skytrain line' Broadway traffic disruptions for new Skytrain line
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Earlier this week, the Storm Crow Alehouse on Broadway shut its doors for good, citing supply and labour shortages, and construction from the Broadway Subway Project as contributing factors.

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“It’s really been a hindrance on business in the past few months,” said marketing officer Jessica Langer at the time. “We’ve noticed traffic is depleted. We’ve been talking with our restaurant neighbors and they’ve also stated they are struggling quite a bit as well.”

Read more: Fencing at Broadway subway construction site falls on senior in Vancouver

Portside Interiors, a furniture shop, opened on Broadway in 2021, and owner Gene Guindon said they knew about the challenges that would come with the project.

He’s hoping to gain access to Main Street rather than stay tucked behind construction fencing, however, and said his “fingers are crossed.”

“If you can’t stop, you can’t shop,” he told Global News.

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