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Centennial Square construction causes frustration among business owners in Sparwood

The $2.2 million project has left businesses with “only a handful of parking spaces”
The site of the former, and soon-to-be future Centennial Square in downtown Sparwood. Pictured in July 2022. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Businesses in Sparwood’s Centennial Square say they are unhappy with how construction in the plaza is taking place. The primary grievance of business owners and employees is that the construction has disrupted vehicle parking, making it difficult for patrons to access stores and restaurants.

“It’s hard for people to get to our business now,” said Carrie Hatsfield, a bartender at the Royal Canadian Legion. “We deal with a lot of seniors so the construction is creating an accessibility issue for them.”

In 2021, several businesses rejected the city’s initial revitalization plan, citing a lack of parking as their main concern.

After taking those concerns into account and revising the plan, city councillors approved a plan that ultimately reduced the number of parking spots from 31 to 13.

Businesses say they were not consulted by the city again after expressing their initial concerns.

At the time of its approval, Mayor David Wilks said that the plan selected by councillors addressed the concerns of businesses by preserving storefront parking.

The approved plan is projected to cost $2.2 million.

“It’s not really an improvement, it’s an inconvenience,” said Richard Cardozo, owner of Funky Pizza in the plaza.

Mayor Wilks could not be reached to address the concerns of businesses in time for the publication of this piece.

Currently, there are only a handful of parking spots available for use which are generally occupied by employees.

Reduced car traffic and improved walkability have been proven to increase profits for businesses in large cities, such as Vancouver and Toronto.

Sparwood’s relatively small size does mean that most of the town’s residents can reach Centennial Square by foot in about 15 minutes or less. However, poor walking infrastructure may compel residents to continue driving instead of heading out on foot.

Regardless of whether or not the project ultimately does increase customer traffic in Centennial Square, businesses will, in the words of Hatsfield, have to “live in a construction zone until the end of the winter,” a reality that she considers “very disconcerting.”