17th Avenue overhaul begins as businesses brace for multi-year project

Construction is officially underway on a major project to revitalize Calgary's 17th Avenue S.W. in the city's Beltline district. 

The city is spending $44 million to replace underground utilities, replace sidewalks and remove utility poles along the busy retail strip.

Completing the strip between Stampede Park and 14th Street S.W. is expected to take three to four years.

Business owners in the area have concerns about how the multi-year project will affect them.

Hannah Breen, manager of 17th Avenue clothing store Blame Betty said it was stressful watching the construction begin right outside their door Monday morning, knowing the decreased access to their business would likely result in a drop in their customer traffic.

"In theory, it sounds better but it's very intense for a short few months when we're already struggling because of obvious economic issues in Alberta," she said.

"It just takes a month to close the store, if we can't pay our bills, even for that short period of time — we go out of business."

City ready to address issues

The city said it is making effort to minimize the disruption by only doing construction a block or two at a time. 

Project manager Logan Tolsma said the city is setting up a construction office on the street to help business owners and concerned citizens deal with any construction-related issues that arise.

"We have an open-door policy. If there are questions or concerns, they can come to us and we have a team that's set up to help handle a lot of these issues," he said.

"We're working closely with the businesses throughout the project."

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