The end is near – of construction, that is. And businesses along Bloor St. in Yorkville couldn’t be happier.
“We’re very happy with (the project) at the moment because, for the most part, (construction) is away from our stores,” said Scott Harris, a member of the Bloor-Yorkville Business Improvement Area board and general manager of the Holt Renfrew Centre at 50 Bloor St. West.
With increased cooperation from the parties involved pushing the work ahead, the project’s completion date is now pegged at Oct. 21.
“The contractor has deployed a lot of additional resources to expedite the completion of the work and to minimize the disruption to the public,” said Gordon MacMillan, director of design and construction for city of Toronto.
With that news, business owners who have had to tolerate years of disruption and delay are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I was not on side for this renovation,” Harris said. “I have come around now. I think (the parties) have done a good job of turning it around.”
The original Bloor Street Transformation Project started in 2008 and was scheduled for completion by December 2009. Modelled after Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile,” the project aimed to transform Bloor St. into a pedestrian-friendly, world-class shopping boulevard from Avenue Road to Church Street, complete with expansive sidewalks and large trees.
But jurisdiction disputes and scheduling conflicts between the contractor, the city and Hydro Toronto resulted in the process dragging on nearly a year longer than expected and nearly $4 million over budget. Since 2006, the street has been dug up several times for water main replacement, gas lines, hydro work and sidewalk widening, often with unforeseen delays.
“Bloor Street is an old street. There’s been a lot of construction. There are definitely a lot of utilities and underground features that pose a lot of challenges,” MacMillan said.
By all accounts, the project was looking grim around its originally scheduled completion date last December. But the parties managed to agree to a revised deadline of November 2010. Since then they have been meeting bi-weekly to make sure the project doesn’t stall.
While business owners have continued to report disruptions since, many have said the pace has improved.
“I thought the delays that originally occurred would snowball and get worse and what I’ve seen is the opposite,” said Valentine Lovekin, a Yorkville lawyer who also sits on the board of the BIA.
After the completion of the widened granite sidewalk, the only remaining task will be planting the new trees in their soil cells. That will happen either this fall or spring, depending on the assessment of an arborist.
With both the city and the BIA predicting work will finally be completed by the end of October, all parties are now looking to the future.
“Toronto is becoming an international city and Yonge and Bloor is a major destination for a high-end shopping experience. This project will help attract international shoppers and general tourists as well as local shoppers,” MacMillan said.
Business owners strike a similar tone.
“Sometimes you don’t see the fruit of your effort until a little later on,” MacMillan said. “At the end of the day people are going to say the street looks great and they’re going to forget how difficult it was to make this project a reality.”
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