George Niavis, at the Bella Vita Restaurant in Maple Ridge, is wondering how long road construction will continue on Lougheed Highway. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

George Niavis, at the Bella Vita Restaurant in Maple Ridge, is wondering how long road construction will continue on Lougheed Highway. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Restaurant owner riled by road work in Ridge

Reconstruction has stopped customers

As a bulldozer lumbers back and forth outside his main window on Maple Ridge’s main drag, George Niavis is wondering how long he can keep on going.

Since the reconstruction of Lougheed Highway started a few weeks ago, between 225th and 226th streets, the front side of his Bella Vita Restaurant has gone from a sidewalk with easy on-street parking to a gravel path, with a half-metre-deep hole nearby just to keep pedestrians on their toes.

With the road and sidewalk dug up, business has plummeted.

The restaurant has only four parking spots in the back lot. But even if they can use those, customers still have to walk through the dirt of a construction site and over wooden boards on the ground to get to the front door.

“What I can see right now, is there’s nobody coming in the morning,” Niavis said Friday.

He had earlier received a letter from the city telling him about the project, but it gave no timeline saying how long he’d have to put up with the disruption.

“We don’t even know how long it’s going to take,” said Niavis, who’s owned the restaurant, which originally opened in 1974, for six years.

“At least let us know what’s going on, right?”

For now, as the bills pile up and the customers stay away, Niavis is in a holding pattern.

He’s not sure, however, by exactly how much business has declined.

After looking out his restaurant’s feature window at the heavy construction ongoing, he opens the door that’s usually the restaurant’s fire exit. It now opens on to a shallow ditch.

“They should speed it up a bit,” he said.

“This is very stressful for me.”

However, the city on Friday has offered to put up signs and to install a temporary fence and asphalt sidewalk, from the parking lot to the restaurant’s front door, said municipal engineer Dave Pollock.

The city tries to work with businesses and mitigate impacts of construction, he added.

“We do meet with people and keep people informed,” Pollock added.

In the next block to the east, the Mission Thrift Store has also lost its sidewalk.

“We’ve noticed, it’s been slower for sure,” said Jennifer Krentz. “We’ve definitely noticed the change.”

Even though the shop can be accessed from the parking lot at the back of the store, there’s still a drop off in the numbers. But she expects her shop can survive. She said the city sent a notice to businesses saying it would take six months for the project to be completed.

The work is the final part of the City of Maple Ridge’s multi-year downtown enhancement plan, following similar rebuilds along 224th Street and farther west along Lougheed Highway that saw new sewer lines, new roads, sidewalks, street furniture, and trees.

Original trees were removed, as were sidewalks, and traffic is limited to one lane in each direction.

 

George Niavis, at the Bella Vita Restaurant in Maple Ridge, is wondering how long road construction will continue on Lougheed Highway. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

George Niavis, at the Bella Vita Restaurant in Maple Ridge, is wondering how long road construction will continue on Lougheed Highway. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Illustration shows final plans for roadwork. (THE NEWS/files)

Illustration shows final plans for roadwork. (THE NEWS/files)