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June 25, 2022

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Vancouver’s Broadway corridor water, sewer project draws complaints

Customers, business owners face blocked streets amid work

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
4 Photos
Construction crews work on a sewer and water line project on Broadway in downtown Vancouver on Thursday. Phase 2 of the corridor project, which began in mid-February, is anticipated to be completed in June. The timeline is causing concern among the shops in the area, as they have faced significant drops in business since it began. Phase 1 was completed in 2021.
Construction crews work on a sewer and water line project on Broadway in downtown Vancouver on Thursday. Phase 2 of the corridor project, which began in mid-February, is anticipated to be completed in June. The timeline is causing concern among the shops in the area, as they have faced significant drops in business since it began. Phase 1 was completed in 2021. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

An ambitious city project to replace century-old water and sewer pipes in part of downtown Vancouver is blocking streets and frustrating nearby business owners and the customers who attempt to navigate the area.

Vancouver’s Broadway Corridor Project tackles the necessary replacement of outdated water and sewer pipes that run 10 feet underneath Broadway, requiring workers to remove the street’s surface and chunks of sidewalk.

However, shop owners along Broadway said the ripped-up road and sidewalks are causing their frustrations to fester as the project persists. Many said it hurts their business, saying customers don’t know how to navigate the partially closed-off site.

Michael Hearn, owner of IV Tea Co., said most of his customers mention how horrible their journey is to the store’s entrance. The construction tape, lack of pathways and exposed metal rods require pedestrians to weave through the terrain to get to their destination.

One customer told Hearn that it took them 35 minutes to reach the store because their navigation app was equally befuddled by how to proceed among the obstacles. Others told the owner that the path was simply inaccessible.

The large undertaking was originally going to unfold as one project, but staff doubted it could be rounded up within one period, so it was split into two projects spanning separate seasons; the first phase was completed in 2021, and the second is anticipated to finish in early June.

“We’re sequencing work to help minimize impacts in the area,” said Brooke Porter, Vancouver public works communications specialist.

It seemed like poor timing, Hearn said.

The tea shop opened at 1001 Broadway on April 22 after moving from its old Vancouver Mall location. Luckily, a strong customer base followed the move and continued to support Hearn’s business by ordering tea online. Those in neighboring businesses also continued to brave the uneven gravel to peek their heads in, greet the employees and grab a drink.

“We’re excited and grateful to be downtown, but the construction makes it difficult for customers to know where we are,” he said.

The tea shop owner remains uneasy about how much longer the Broadway project will take, since it doesn’t seem close to being finished.

“It’s a disaster,” said Alex James, GLAMbeauty bar manager. “It seems like it keeps getting worse.”

The salon at 202 E. Evergreen Blvd., which requires patrons to schedule appointments, hasn’t faced a financial impact from the construction because of their schedule. Around the corner at 1005 Broadway, Big Town Hero faces its own challenges stemming from a lack of foot traffic.

Co-owner Mariam Dye said they reduced employees’ hours to adjust to the lack of business and are considering limiting the sandwich shop’s days of operation — a last case scenario. Sales have plummeted since its initial opening in early March, she said, and the duration of the Broadway project is troubling.

“The only reason we keep opening our doors is because we know our workers need a paycheck,” Dye said. “It’s taking a toll on us. Every day is getting scarier.”

Revamping corridor

Phase 1 of the Broadway Corridor Project, which cost about $1.4 million, stretched from East 13th Street north to East McLoughlin Boulevard, including a small portion of the east and west piece of the McLoughlin and Broadway intersection.

The $2.1 million Phase 2 construction along Broadway between 13th Street and Sixth Street began in mid-February. The remaining water and sewer installation is slated to be completed toward the end of May. Further construction on curbs and paving are expected to be finished in June.

The city of Vancouver and C-Tran are coordinating efforts, as improvements are being made to three bus stops along the street. There are two temporary stops along the corridor that offer alternate routes while the area is under construction. The project also addresses C-Tran’s Mill Plain Bus Rapid Transit initiative to expand upon The Vine routes in downtown and east Vancouver.

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