Roncesvalles businesses reeling from seasons of construction are breathing a sigh of relief this winter as road work takes a break during the cold months.
“The street is open and we want people to come shop on Roncesvalles,” said Leonard McAuley, chair of the business continuity committee, the Roncesvalles Business Improvement Area’s construction watchdog. “When construction’s done, it’ll be the hottest street in the city.”
Businesses are hoping the ‘when’ is not far away. With construction already many months overdue and having endured complications with transit and gas lines, many are still feeling the pinch.
“My business has been affected at least 40 percent,” said Ania Fleszer, co-owner of Roncesvalles Hair Salon and Skin care. “I’m barely surviving here now. Obviously everybody’s frustrated.”
A sign on her door reads: “Construction sucks, but we totally understand it needs to be done. In the meantime we could use your help. It’s been tough, like really tough. So please support the community. Shop Roncy.”
The signs were printed by the business association and distributed to area shops to encourage customers to keep coming.
Fleszer said if it weren’t for the fact she moved her establishment to a cheaper and more accessible part of the street right before construction started, she’d be out of business.
“We were lucky because people can still kind of reach us coming from Dundas or the subway,” Fleszer said. She noted she’s had some clients who have broken arms getting tripped up in the construction and some have told her they’ll only return when the street is fully accessible again for good.
Two-way traffic reopened on Roncesvalles Avenue Dec. 10, just in time for the busy shopping season. As a boost to the area, parking on the street has been free since then in legal spots.
At the invitation of the Business Improvement Area, Mayor Rob Ford also recently toured the area and pledged to keep a personal eye on developments.
But even with construction suspended, some businesses say they’re still feeling the pain. Where the sidewalk has been widened, streetcars now face a tighter squeeze alongside parked cars. Such a tight squeeze in fact that they sometimes can’t get by until drivers move their cars. With daily occurrences, shop owners say the street still gets jammed up with traffic.
“We need some time for people to get used to it,” says McAuley.
He says there still needs to be some education for drivers so they know to leave more room for streetcars when parking.
Construction is set to resume sometime in April and the city has said it should take approximately three months to complete, weather permitting. McAuley said his committee plans to coordinate with the contractors to make sure there is minimal disruption to businesses for the remainder of the work.
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