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Main Street revitalization project set to resume April 15

Local businesses prepare for changes as street returns to construction zone

LAC LA BICHE - The next phase of Lac La Biche’s $32.5 million downtown Main Street Revitalization Project is set to begin mid-April. 

And while Lac La Biche County officials say they are ready, local business owners are still looking for answers ... and preparing for the unknown. 

According to Ali Memon, the municipality’s Manager of Engineering Services, work on the next phase starts on April 15. The project will replace existing underground utility pipes beneath a portion of the downtown main road and upgrade surface features including sidewalks, curbs, gutters and streetlights. This year’s project is expected to affect a one-block section of the roadway between 102 Street at Value Drugs to 101 Street at the Alberta Treasury Branch.  

The work will begin with the installation of temporary water services to buildings in the construction zone. The main construction will begin on May 1 and will block off the entire area, once again using large, screened construction fences in front of businesses. 

Last year’s first stage of the downtown project — from 103 Street to 102 Street took more than six months to complete, wrapping up in November. Some features, like trees, a set of traffic lights and new streetlights intended for that project have still not been installed. Memon says those features and those needed for the upcoming project are expected to be in place at the end of the project. This year’s project, he added, is expected to have a shorter timeline than last year’s downtown disruption, as the work area is shorter in distance. 


Memon said maintaining close contact with affected businesses has been a continuous goal right from the start of the project. Recently, he continued, County officials visited affected businesses in person, and plan to visit again in the first week of April with official construction notices to update the business community about the project’s start and planned activities.  

 “We took a lot of time last year and during the off-season to prepare, listening to residents and business owners’ concerns to ensure that this year’s construction goes even smoother,” Memon told Lakeland This Week.  

For owners and staff in businesses within the construction zone — even with that planning and contact from municipal officials — it’s still going to be an upheaval. 

It means big changes, front to back — literally, says Helen Abougoush at the Warehouse One store on Main Street. 

With the main front doors likely blocked to customers as crews rip up sidewalks and the road, the rear doors normally used for deliveries will have to be used. And that’s going to mean a lot of changes inside the store, since the rear delivery door directly accesses the stockroom. It will become a safety, staffing and customer convenience issue, she says. 

“We need some kind of dividers or something so that it’ll separate our stockroom,” Abougoush said, adding that she doesn’t want the backroom door to be accessible to everyone. “Also, sometimes we only have one staff member working, so we’re going to have to be able to man the front door and the back door…so we need to figure out something.”  

She has already taken some pro-active measures, speaking with Lac La Biche County officials a few months ago, expressing her concerns, and keeping her district manager up to speed. 

One positive about being a business on the south side of the main downtown roadway, she said, is that a municipal parking lot is right behind their store making access a little easier for shoppers. But the parking bonus is only one plus among many negatives and unknowns that could greatly affect an already challenging business community. 

“Last year, we weren’t even the part of the street they were working on — but it still really affected all downtown businesses because people just detoured around and missed Main Street completely,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a good outcome regardless, honestly.”  

A few doors up the street, Chris Palamaruk, who owns Lac La Biche Modern Wears with her husband Leo, said they are just rolling along and will be adapting as best as they can. She says the utility pipe replacement is necessary, so they will do their best while the work is being done. 

Like other stores, she said customers can park in the large municipal lot behind Modern Wears, and their store’s rear entrance will also have to be altered to make it ready for customers. 

While she is ready to take it as it comes, Palamaruk is clearly concerned about the effects the upheaval will have on her family-owned store and others on the street.  

 “We’re just hoping that we can survive it,” she said. “It’s going to be a tough summer.” 

Business closing 

Across the street at Costa Café, Hazel Costa has already made her summer plans. 

She’s closing the Main Street restaurant location.  

She said the difficult decision has been made to close the location for the duration of the construction. The restaurant doesn’t have an alternative rear entry suitable for customers, Costa explained, so closure was the only option. Also leaving a bad taste for the restauranteur, she says, has been a lack of contact from the municipality. As of Tuesday, she told Lakeland This Week, she hadn’t had any communication with Lac La Biche County officials regarding the construction.  

“We are very disappointed by the County's inaction to help local businesses on Main Street during these tough times,” she said.  

Municipal officials have said they will reach all affected businesses along the construction zone. An updated schedule or map of the new construction area has yet to be put onto the municipal website. As of March 27 the website was only showing information from last year’s 2023 project. 

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