Broadway businesses fear bankruptcy over subway construction

“This is becoming a death sentence,” said Sentheepan Senthivel of Greens Organic and Natural Market on Broadway, who started a petition calling for relief payments as subway construction scares away customers.

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Broadway businesses near the Arbutus subway station say operating in a construction zone caused revenue to drop 40% in the first months of the $3 billion project to expand the SkyTrain.

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“It becomes a death sentence,” said Sentheepan Senthivel, co-owner and manager of Greens Organic and Natural Market in the 1900 block of West Broadway at Maple Street. “I don’t know how other companies are doing, but it’s going to be difficult for us.”

He started a petition on change.org that garnered nearly 1,000 signatures on Tuesday calling on the province and city to provide tax relief to businesses affected by construction slated to last until the end of 2025.

“Businesses shouldn’t lose their livelihoods because of infrastructure projects,” said Senthivel, who said he had to mortgage his home to make up for the shortfall.

The project involves constructing a 5.7 km extension of the Millennium Line from VCC-Clark station to Broadway and Arbutus, five kilometers of which will be dug underground. Six new stations are being built, and construction has reduced vehicular traffic and parking on several sections of Broadway.

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Senthivel said he is battling with the Broadway Subway Project, the provincial government entity responsible for construction, to maintain access to his store and improve signage.

Manager/Owner Sentheepan Senthivel of Greens independent grocer at 1978 W. Broadway.
Manager/Owner Sentheepan Senthivel of Greens independent grocer at 1978 W. Broadway. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

The British Columbia Ministry of Transportation said in an emailed statement on Tuesday that it is meeting with businesses to ensure they remain open and accessible during construction and to minimize disruption.

“We have been actively working with businesses along the Broadway Corridor since 2019 to help inform traffic and construction management plans,” the unidentified spokesperson said.

But Senthivel said he had to fight to limit road closures and to get the pedestrian path across Broadway installed in Maple. And he learned from the latest project update that the trail will soon be closed, requiring pedestrians north of Broadway to walk one block east or west, then one block south to ‘to 10th Avenue and back to his store on Broadway.

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And the update also says vehicular traffic will also be restricted, forcing customers, delivery vans and area residents to use a back lane to access businesses or residences in the neighborhood.

When that happens, Senthivel expects another 10 or 20 percent drop in revenue.

His grocery store is one of several on the south side of Broadway between Arbutus and Cypress streets separated from an open pit by mesh fencing. On Tuesday afternoon, a large digger operated in front of businesses west of Maple Street behind a sign that read “Caution: Loud Noise Zone. Proceed with caution.”

The fence has cut the width of the sidewalk by more than half, and barriers prevent cars on Maple from crossing North or South Broadway, making it difficult for his customers to walk, drive or bike to his store, did he declare.

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Construction on Main Street at Broadway in Vancouver on March 8, 2022.
Construction on Main Street at Broadway in Vancouver on March 8, 2022. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

Greg Webdale, director of the West Coast Tropical Bird Studio on the same block, said revenue also fell 40%.

He said the fence cut off 60% of the sidewalk in front of the store and recently the fence was moved closer to their windows so “what little traffic that passed through has gone down.”

He said 30-40% of their customers traveled to the store by bus and there were no longer stops in the block, which affected their mostly elderly customers.

The construction caused a sewer line to burst which flooded the store, for which he was compensated. “But it was like pulling teeth,” Webdale said.

He said the owners are ready to “hold on for as long as possible” but are worried about losing money for another three years.

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The government should provide tax relief or financial support as it has done for businesses that have been hit by a downturn in business during COVID, he said.

“It would be nice if we could have the money to pay our employees what they are worth,” Webdale said.

Business also plummeted at the Korna Natural Pet Supplies store on Block 2000, assistant manager Dorothy Bhattacharya said. She could not give an estimated amount, but said the store is no longer seeing the same rushes as before.

“It’s hard for people to park,” she says. In addition, construction noise is disturbing for animals accompanying their owners.

The Department for Transport said in the statement that it recognized that businesses would face challenges during construction, but did not address the issue of compensation or damages.

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“No tax relief and/or financial support has been promised to businesses,” a city spokeswoman said in an email. “We continue to explore opportunities to reduce business impacts during metro construction. »

About 100 businesses in Cambie Village were impacted by the construction of the Canada Line and three test cases were awarded $180,000 in damages after a trial in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, but that was overturned on appeal. Two companies are awaiting a new trial date more than 12 years after the trial was launched. Their cases will be used to determine damages for the remaining companies in the class action.

Thirty-nine of the businesses closed during construction. And plaintiffs’ legal fees have exceeded $500,000 so far, said plaintiff Leonard Schein, owner of the Park Theater during construction.

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On Broadway, the ministry statement said, “To help minimize disruption to local businesses, the majority of the new line will be dug underground. … This means far less surface disruption to businesses than the “cut and cover” approach used on the Canada Line. »

He also said he notifies businesses ahead of special construction activities and works one-on-one with businesses to “mitigate disruptions,” including providing signage and access maps, cleaning sidewalks, facades and windows and moving the commercial loading area to nearby side streets.


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