As the conversation around the Downtown Revitalization Project continues, some business owners are left questioning what the impacts would be on their livelihood.

Al Dougherty, owner of Orpheum Theatre, said he is concerned about future expenses. He is unclear as to what the changes in the project will entail.  

The City Council stated that the money could only be used for this specific project and only phase one has been approved. “The project will address a much-needed underground system replacement, as well as improving the usability of the downtown core,” the City said in a recent press release.  

“I am not against the project - the infrastructure is not a problem, but I don’t think we need all the bells and whistles," said Dougherty.  
Dougherty pointed to a construction bid that closed on March 19. In the application, it included tree box installation, 63 new trees, landscaping features and furnishings, and electric vehicle charging stations. He questioned what the ongoing expenses related to those items would be. The city said in a recent press release that all downtown businesses have agreed to a plan that would minimize interruptions to day-to-day business operations during construction.

Dougherty said that no one from the City had contacted him before the funding was released. He described it being similar to if someone told a homeowner that the waterline at their house had to be fixed unexpectedly and the crew showed up shortly after.

While other businesses may have back alley access, Dougherty expressed it isn’t feasible to have people enter a movie theatre that way. He added that there is no way to monitor the people coming in, as the box office is located at the front fascia.

“That’s the whole idea of movie theatres - to watch a movie without having interruptions from everyone.” 

Edwin Recolaso owns Estevan Gerry's Freezer and Meat Shop on 4th Street. His concerns about the Downtown Revitalization Project were similar to what many businesses around the area had - customer access. 

"There's no back entrance or no access at the back for my shop. I don't know what's gonna happen because I cannot just let them walk through the working area because this is food. Just to be on the safe side, not only for the shop but for the good of the community, as this is food. I don't think that's gonna happen."

"Everybody wants to make Estevan a better place, a nicer place, a beautiful place to live, right? But we have to look [at] the consequences for this," he added.

Recolaso noted that he isn't against the revitalization plan either, but he wonders if this is the right time for it. He mentioned that the overhead of running the business might clash with the lack of foot traffic during construction. 

"I still don't know what the future holds from when they start this project. I'm still paying my rent, some employees, you know, the meat that I'm ordering from the suppliers, so I really don't know what to expect from the City. But I think...they have to think about the businesses. Like, what they can give to support us, not us asking them because actually it's [the City's] project."

City Manager Jeff Ward shared that the plans of what would be accessible are waiting on a contractor to be selected. 

"We have had initial discussions with our engineering firm on what that looks like, but that will be a discussion with the general contractor that gets involved as well. There will be full communication with the downtown businesses and how they're impacted and it will be presented out to the public once that's finalized."

"Even if I don't have my business down here on 4th Street, I'm gonna think about the other people's business too," Recolaso expressed

Dougherty said that it is unclear as to what the full price tag of the project would be. However, in an interview with DiscoverEstevanMayor Roy Ludwig outlined that most of the cost of the project will be covered by the federal grant of $7.75 million. The $1.5 million that was set aside for debt repayment would be a cushion for the project, should the scope extend past the grant. 

There are a lot of what-ifs surrounding the Downtown Revitalization Project, Dougherty noted, and that the whole situation makes him uneasy. He said the overarching concern for him is a lack of transparency from the City. The misinformation shared within the community has added to his confusion about the exact nature of the project. 

A contractor has yet to be publicly announced for the project. Construction is slated to begin later in the spring.