A Vancouver market is asking for greater government support for businesses affected by the construction of the Broadway subway project.
Sentheepan Senthivel of Greens Market says construction has kept customers away, with sales down about 40 per cent some weeks. Without any relief, he and his business partner will be going into debt to keep the business open.
Senthivel launched an online petition calling for tax reductions from the provincial and municipal governments to help shops get through the construction period.
"Without at least a break on property taxes, many small businesses may not survive, and we could be left with nothing but big box stores after the dust settles," the petition reads.
Fencing has cut off part of the sidewalk outside his storefront and access to nearby Maple Street is limited. Senthivel says there aren't enough city signs telling people how to get into nearby shops.
"You can't really get into the store very easily," he said. "We've had numerous suppliers, customers just not want to deliver any more, not want to come in at all," he said.
The Broadway construction project will extend the SkyTrain line from VCC–Clark Station to Arbutus Street along Broadway. The project consists of six underground stations. That transit route — one of the busiest in the city — is currently served the by 99 B-Line rapid bus.
Construction impacts smaller businesses
Unlike larger chain stores with deep pockets, small businesses like his don't have the resources to weather a slowdown, Senthivel says.
"No entrepreneur, no local person needs to go out of business because there's an infrastructure project in the city. It's just not fair. Large corporations, they can do it. It's just one store for them. That's it. But a lot of people's livelihoods and dreams ... shouldn't be impacted this way."
The City of Vancouver says it is doing everything it can to mitigate the project's impact on local businesses, including helping with loading and parking on nearby side streets, along with in-person outreach to business owners. An online support campaign launched last year, the city added.
B.C.'s Transportation Ministry said the project team gives businesses notice of construction activities, tries to address their concerns and raise awareness that businesses are still open and accessible during construction.
Work is scheduled to continue until 2024 with the extended line officially opening in 2025,
Earlier this century, the construction of The Canada Line led some businesses along with Cambie Street corridor to launch legal action. One former business owner said more than three dozen businesses shuttered when construction ripped open Cambie Street from West 2nd Avenue to West King Edward Avenue. Some merchants won a class action lawsuit in 2018.
Senthivel said he supports mass transit, but believes it shouldn't come at the expense of local businesses.
"This situation is not a simple construction project," he said. "It's a project that can sink businesses across the Broadway corridor."