A group of Exchange District business owners are calling for a moratorium on development in the area, telling the city there needs to be a better plan in place for things like bike lanes, parking, and loading zones in the neighbourhood before work starts up again.
The group, which includes former Blue Bomber and Shawarma Khan restaurant owner Obby Khan, say recent changes made to the streets — in particular new bike lanes that have taken over parking spots and loading zones — have been bad for business.
Khan says many are reporting a 20 to 30 per cent drop in business and he’s personally lost “six figures” since losing street parking across from his McDermot Avenue restaurant two years ago.
“What are we trying to do? Are we trying to create a community or are we trying to create one way roads to get people out of the downtown core?” he said.
“Do we want to make active transport or do we want to throw bike lanes in the middle of busy streets and get people out of the downtown core — What is the plan? What is the vision?
“Us as business owners are feeling the squeeze right now without this plan.”
Khan, along with the owners of King + Bannatyne and Bodegoes, canvassed the Exchange, getting signatures from a total of 67 local business-owners who echo their concerns.
In a letter presented to Winnipeg’s mayor and council last week, the group calls for an end to “one-off interventions around parking, transportation, construction or development” in the Exchange until a comprehensive plan is created.
They also want parking prices to drop from $3.50 to $2.50 in the area and to see recent street changes reversed.
Khan stresses the group is not opposed to active transportation — in fact they welcome it — but want to see a plan put forward and more consultation with area businesses before work is done
“We love the bike lanes, we are pro active transportation,” he said.
“What we are not pro for is the design, implementation and roll-out without any real consultation of business and how the bike lanes were executed. What was the plan? What was the vision? Or did you just throw bike lanes down?
“Stop doing piecemeal, stop putting in a loading zone here, stop putting in a light here or back-in parking here — what is the whole vision for the Exchange?”
Khan said the group has gotten a good response from the city, and Mayor Brian Bowman said he is listening to the group’s concerns.
“I appreciate the dialogue,” Bowman said Friday, telling 680 CJOB he’s working with business owners and the Exchange District BIZ to find solutions.
“There’s been a lot of investments made in the downtown, including the Exchange, over the last few years and obviously we want to make sure that we’re doing our best to ensure that the businesses are as successful as possible.
“We have some more work to do… finding the right balance is obviously key”
In the meantime, Khan says if nothing changes, some businesses — including his — may look at leaving the Exchange District.
“Everything needs to be looked at together to come up with a solution,” he said.
“The Exchange is a vibrant, fun, beautiful area — we need to come up with a plan with the city, with urban designers, with residents, with business owners to make this work for everyone.”
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