Whistler businesses are bracing for a perfect storm of construction projects this summer, including three major hotel renovations in Whistler Village, a municipal project to renovate Village Square, and, of course, the ongoing work to upgrade Highway 99.
"It’s going to be painful, no question," said Kevin McFarland, the parks planner for the RMOW who will be overseeing the construction project in Village Square.
"Just as the construction on the highway is painful, and that’s going to be going on for years."
The new construction projects come on the heels of a slower than average winter, and many businesses are hoping for a strong summer. McFarland says the municipality is taking every step possible to minimize the impacts on businesses between April 26 and the completion date, which is prior to the July 1 Canada Day / July 4 Independence Day long weekend.
The RMOW held an open house on Tuesday, April 20 to show concerned business owners the municipality’s plans for the square, and to find out what steps can be taken to make visitors aware of their businesses. The hoarding will start to go up on Monday, hiding most shop fronts from the public.
"We’ve gotten the message loud and clear from everyone that Canada Day is pretty darn important, and we heard that from council too," said McFarland. "By then we plan to have the biggest impact work done, and to be able to pull back the fencing. There may be a few stonemasons in there and planters, but the square will look like it’s ready."
Although many construction projects tend to take longer than planned, McFarland says the RMOW shopped around for a contractor that had a reputation for getting projects completed on time.
"It’s not an option to run late, it’s just not." he said.
Although many businesses that will be directly affected by the construction have voiced their concerns regarding the project, McFarland said that all of them are actually in favour of renovating the Village Square.
"By and large everyone who sees the plan is looking forward to it," he said.
"What we’re seeing with all of the construction work is businesses reinvesting in Whistler, and so in the muni. We haven’t done anything significant in Village Square in 25 years.
"We all realize that this is an important area for Whistler. Village Square functions well, it just needs to be refreshed."
The new square will have a tiered look. After entering through the Village Gateway, visitors will walk down three steps, instead of six, onto a wide terrace that will run along the border of the areas from the liquor store to Araxi Restaurant. That terrace will include patio seating for Moguls and the Grocery Store, planter boxes, and a public art project to salute Whistler legends. The art project will consist of glass patio stones engraved with local images and stories which will be backlit at night.