A Vancouver business owner is calling out the City for what he says is a poor response to years-long roadwork disruptions and repeated property crime facing his store.
Adam Kelliher is the owner of Rubble Rock and Gem by SkyTrain Marine Drive Station.
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From the beginning of his store’s journey, he’s been frustrated with the City of Vancouver’s permits and bylaws.
Now, years later, he says the situation has worsened and he has to work hard to overcome the challenges posed by ongoing road construction and rising crime.
Marine Drive upgrades and roadwork
One of the biggest issues is the upgrades along Marine Drive, which have created difficult conditions for Rubble Rock and Gem. Since January 2021, the City has been completing significant water, sewer, and street infrastructure improvements as part of the Marine Drive Upgrade Project.
Kelliher says, as a result, he has “struggled with stand-still traffic out front of our business.”
Those traffic headaches have led to a decrease in sales since 2021.
“People learned to avoid the area, which was once a main artery of Vancouver,” he said.
After the first year of “relentless construction,” Kelliher said he was reassured by a City community liaison that it would be over in a couple of months for the section in front of his business to be complete. “It is now three years later,” said Kelliher.
Construction impairs business access
According to Kelliher, project workers have been parking machinery and vehicles that aren’t being used in front of his building, obscuring visibility.
This summer, vehicle access to the business is set to be severely blocked and limited. Kelliher says that he already has to drive through a confusing pylon course just to park his car.
“I’m getting the short end of the stick here,” he said.
Kelliher wants signs indicating that the businesses are open in the area and a clear entrance from the main road to his business so that customers don’t have to navigate an impossible maze to park their vehicles.
“When I need to [get] permits for renovations, it takes months. I feel the City is not caring for my small business and instead contributing to jeopardizing it,” he said.
The City’s response
Kelliher has been vocal regarding these issues and has appealed to the City on multiple occasions regarding business disruptions.
In documents provided by Kelliher, the City replied to his messages saying they were “very sorry” to learn of his experiences. But to Kelliher, the City’s “pre-scripted” responses don’t adequately address his concerns.
One example of this was when the City told him, “The City encourages residents to enjoy the myriad of events throughout Vancouver this spring and summer, and extends its thanks for everyone’s understanding and patience during the busy annual season of construction and street use.”
This statement does not appear to relate to Kelliher’s concerns directly and the suggestion that a frustrated business owner “enjoy the myriad of events throughout Vancouver” is not only not a remedy but appears to be insensitive.
Daily Hive reached out to the City about the challenges facing Rubble Rock and Gem. The City provided detailed information about the Marine Drive Upgrades Project, and said that it is “upgrading multiple infrastructure systems at the same time to minimize longer-term impacts.”
“Now that the significant underground water and sewer work is complete and the weather is dry and warm, crews have returned to complete the final stage of the project which includes repaving Marine Drive, completing sidewalk repairs as well as completing signal rehabilitation at eight intersections and completing intersection safety upgrades at Cambie Street and Manitoba Street,” the City said.
The City highlighted the “many long-term benefits to this work including supporting growth in the area, reducing combined sewers overflows (CSO), improved seismic resiliency and a life expectancy of 100 years.”
“We understand that the impacts to residents, businesses and those who travel through the area can be frustrating and disruptive,” said the City, which said it strives to minimize impacts by providing notification letters, signage, and posting about traffic impacts on social media.
While the City did not directly respond to questions about Rubble Rock and Gem specifically, they said that the City’s “project team… works with directly impacted businesses to ensure access is retained when possible and are available to answer questions and concerns as work progresses.” As a directly impacted business, Kelliher refutes this claim.
And it’s not just the lack of clear signage and access to the building that’s been draining. High crime, including shoplifting and car break-ins, are wearing on the business.
High crime contributes to more frustrations
Kelliher said that he has made five reports to VPD this year over criminal activity, including two shoplifting incidents and three vehicle break-ins. VPD confirmed that it is currently investigating these reports made by Kelliher and in each case, the suspect was not on scene and there was no “imminent safety risk.”
“Mr. Kelliher is clearly frustrated with the crime in his neighbourhood, and we share those concerns,” VPD told Daily Hive. “The most recent incident, a theft, was reported by phone on May 22. A VPD officer personally attended the business and met with the store owner.”
“The officer obtained a list of items stolen and a description of the suspect, who had already left, and asked the owner to provide store security footage so we can conduct a full investigation that leads to the identification and arrest of the thief,” said VPD.
Kelliher feels that reporting theft or damage under $10,000 online means that he inevitably becomes a statistic.
“Ask me how much strength it takes to continually greet the public with kindness, trust, and receptiveness when we are being targeted by shoplifters,” said Kelliher.
“Try to wrestle with the idea that people are coming to my store, an extension of myself that I have worked so hard for, and exploiting my trust by stealing from it. Then, put yourself in my shoes and call the cops that you fund through taxes only to hear how frustrated they are too.”
According to police, they’ve been working with retailers closely throughout the city to address crime concerns, and have arrested hundreds of shoplifters and chronic offenders this year.
Kelliher also brought concerns about crime and safety up to the City of Vancouver, who told Kelliher that they’re aware of concerns regarding “street disorder.” According to an email the City sent to Kelliher, the City is partnering with Business Improvement Associations to understand the challenges facing business owners.
“City staff will look at ways that the City can partner with businesses to provide new opportunities for people who are facing additional struggles, including financial and housing instability,” said the City.
The road ahead
The City says that roadwork will continue in the area until Fall 2023. Until then, the City and VPD have left Kelliher with little more than an apology and no additional resources to address the difficulties facing his business.
“Ultimately, the City raises my property taxes every year, and offers no financial support or lenience for the hardships they cause,” said Kelliher.
“My business is surviving, but I have to put extra hours in, be creative with marketing, invest more into online sales… to balance the debilitating effect of the City’s construction project on my business,” he said.