The City of Grande Prairie has released the following statement in response to the downtown construction complaints:
“The City takes the concerns of all those impacted by the Downtown Rehabilitation Project seriously. We have been in contact with the representative of the Farmers’ Market and we are working with them on addressing all concerns.”
For what should be the busiest season for the Farmers’ Market – it’s far from it.
Darice Rach Manager of the Grande Prairie Farmers’ Market says downtown street construction has left them with no parking for staff or customers and only one access point (102 Ave) to the building and their vendors are struggling.
Since construction started in mid June, Rach says they have lost five inside vendors, when they haven’t had an empty spot in the past three years. Other vendors have scaled back their hours of operation.
Rach feels like she is not being heard by the City.
“We were made a number of promises that haven’t been seen through and I think it’s just really, really unfortunate because we don’t house just one business, we house like 65 and it affects a great deal of local crafters, local food vendors and a lot of local families that are just not financially getting their needs met by being here,” explained Rach.
“We have spent a great deal of money on advertising to let people know we are still here, we’re still open. Numbers are down, but we’ve also spent a lot more money to get people through the door.”
Roads surrounding the building have been torn up and they’ve been left with no parking lot for the time being.
“It’s just mass confusion, we’ve had a number of accidents out there this summer, I’ve contact the City, nobody has done anything, I’ve contacted Bylaw..”
“(Customers) get here and they can’t find anywhere to park that’s even anywhere close, so to pack up $100 worth of vegetables and walk three blocks – they’re just turning around and leaving.”
“I think the worst part is that the community seems to think it’s the Farmers’ Market’s fault.” Rach says they’ve received a number of calls from angry customers who are frustrated.
“And when June comes and we can’t afford our taxes because we haven’t had the vendors in the building, do I go to city hall and say I’m sorry, just because we haven’t had the vendors to support the building I can’t afford to pay the taxes this year?”
“If I can’t fill the building with vendors I can’t pay those expenses,” she said.
Rach says she’s still waiting to hear back from the City. She says they have been in contact with the Downtown Association, who have been trying to help them however they can.
Downtown Association President Helen Rice says they are doing their best to help affected businesses.
“If they have a problem we contact the contractor, he’ll go down and talk to them and see how they can mitigate it. We are trying to stay positive that it’s short term pain for long term gain, but it is difficult for the business community.”
She says they have made a suggestion to contractors going forward.
“We have asked them to finish one part before they start the next… We are asking they take that into consideration because I believe right now there is just too much closed,” said Rice.