Recently, BlogTO posted an article on how Roncesvalles businesses are struggling during the reconstruction, a reminder of the importance of supporting local businesses during the holiday season. I urge all Roncesvalles residents, please, to brave the occasional dust blast (and chilly breeze), and drop by your local shops, services and restaurants. We need you now more than ever!
The article mentions a few business closures. However, it is not clear that all these closures were due to the reconstruction. In the article, the Queen of Tarts owner said her decision to close was a long time coming after several years in business. And the Second Cup faced a number of problems unrelated to the reconstruction. What is certain, however, is that business is down, and the 30 percent drop that Len from Pollocks reported sounds typical for the street. Is there way of mitigating the disruption during the second phase of construction (to begin in the spring with the streetcar track and sidewalk repairs)?
In addition to urging continued local support for Roncesvalles businesses, the BIA would like to ask community members for their observations of how this first phase of construction has been managed. What can be done better to ensure that the second phase proceeds as smoothly as possible? Good suggestions should be incorporated into the tender document, which will be sent out shortly.
Here are my own observations:
1) Do more to ensure pedestrian movement: Quite often during the first phase, pedestrians were required to walk a block or more out of their way just to cross the street. This effectively cut off businesses from half their customers. The new contract should state that pedestrian crossings shall be maintained at each block except when this is absolutely impossible. Each hour that a pedestrian crossing was closed made a difference to businesses across the street.
2) Manage the dust: Far more than parking and car access, I personally would say that dust and noise were the main factors keeping customers (my customers at least) off the street. The jackhammers only lasted a week or so out front, but the dust remained far longer. This meant that whenever a bus drove by, a huge cloud of dust was stirred up and thrown into people's faces. Even after the first blast, micro particles would linger in the air, making the street unpleasant for everyone and intolerable for those with even mild allergies. I often noticed that several people would return to the street after it rained, most likely because the moist dirt did not throw up dust. I would urge the city to send out street cleaning vehicles regularly during the reconstruction to keep the dust under better control.
3) Contain the mess: Right now, there are several blocks along the street that are finished but are still closed off due to staging materials. Wherever possible, the City should insist that staging materials be kept on the same block where work is occurring or just one block adjacent. Whenever a block can be opened up, however partially, it should be.
4) Preserve bike parking: whenever bike posts must be removed in order to reconstruct the sidewalk, temporary bike parking should be provided nearby. Car traffic may need to be restricted along Roncesvalles, but there is no reason bike traffic or parking should be. By the way, in September, Roncesvalles Renewed member Mark Ellwood counted 194 bikes parked along Roncesvalles, compared to the average of 145 parked cars Mark observed in 2008 while completing his thoroughly-researched parking survey. Last August, traffic guru Tom Vanderbilt wrote in Slate about the importance of bike parking.
Are there any other suggestions? Please contact the BIA at firstname.lastname@example.org! Join the discussion on reconstruction management to share your thoughts.
The community understands that the reconstruction work is absolutely necessary to avoid having streetcars run off their rails. And disruption is inevitable with any reconstruction. But there is always room for improvement in how such things are managed. Let's make sure the lessons learned during this first phase are incorporated into the second!
John Bowker Parking and Beautification Chair Roncesvalles Village BIA
David Pylyp; Being from the "neighbourhood" I asked a few proprietors on Roncesvalles what their thoughts were?
.. business is off by almost 30% and from talking with other stores, I know they are also struggling. The HST will have a huge additional impact on smaller less capitalized businesses... he continued.. Its going to be very hard to get through this winter and then the rent increases are coming with the new HST. Business will be hurt even more. That plus the normal increases for heat and hydro will change the Roncesvalles Streetfront.
So lets recap. Strength through creativity and opportunity, savvy business skills, belief in your product in the face of ongoing competition and hard work. Sound familiar? Sure But Now you need to get people in the door. Would you walk with your stroller down a line of steel gates?
Add your comments? What is your solution?