Ronci revamp begins

Businesses prepare for construction impact

The big dig along the Roncesvalles strip has begun and businesses are bracing for the impact.

Crews started upgrading the water main and sewers in mid-July. The work is a precursor to a street revitalization for the west-end commercial strip.

Business owner Shannon Doyle has been in the Ronci neighbourhood since May last year, but she’s no stranger to the woes of construction for storefront shops.

Doyle, who owns The Mercantile, a specialty foods store, spent nine years in Little Italy and experienced a redo of the streetcar tracks and road along College St.

“When they dug up the tracks, business definitely slowed down,” Doyle said about the College St. construction. “I did okay because I had a contract at the time and I was shipping out a lot — so I was truly lucky.”

Doyle and the other businesses on the popular strip of Roncesvalles Ave. between Dundas and Queen Sts. are now experiencing construction firsthand.

Two crews started at opposite ends of Roncesvalles on watermain and sewer upgrades the week of July 20. This portion of the revitalization will last until December. Next year work will begin on replacing the streetcar tracks and improvements to sidewalks, including bump-outs at transit stops so riders can board new accessible streetcars at grade.

One positive note so far, Doyle said, is that the Roncesvalles BIA is keeping business owners up-to-date.

“On College St. during the streetcar construction, they just didn’t have that type of support,” Doyle said. “Unlike here, they are on top of things, thinking of the small-business guy and just being aware of timelines.

“It’s going to be difficult to get through, but hopefully it won’t be so bad. If it’s aesthetically improved, it will be good for business and even though it will take a long time, you just have to endure it.”

Ewa Wielopolski, owner of Elektra Photo for the past seven years, said her customers, who drive from places like Mississauga, will be affected by the construction.

“Of course it will harm business for now,” said Wielopolski of the revitalization project. “Once they start working it, will be hard for my customers who have to travel here by car.”

Wielopolski estimates 30 percent of her customers drive to her store.

“Even the elderly and young families who walk here will find it difficult among all the construction taking place,” she said.

The business improvement association is working with the local residents’ association on how best to support local stores during the construction, said Len McAuley, chair of the BIA’s business continuity committee. They are working on developing a shop local campaign.

One way shoppers can access stores throughout the disruption is by foot.

“We are keeping (sidewalk) access to stores at all times,” Parkdale-High Park councillor Gord Perks said July 21. And bus service will continue.

However, over the next five months, parking and southbound traffic on Roncesvalles will be affected.

“During construction there will be only one lane northbound for traffic,” Perks said. “There will be no southbound lane for the duration of construction.”

There will also be “fairly significant parking restrictions”, Perks said, but there will be concessions for delivery vans to drop off goods to shops.

McAuley, who owns Pollocks Home Hardware, has a more optimistic view of traffic and parking.

He said drivers can access Roncesvalles from side streets, proceed southbound and park in portions of the road not under construction.

As well, there will be parking on side streets, at a Green P parking lot at Dundas and Roncesvalles and an additional temporary Green P at Howard Park school, McAuley said.

He hopes residents and biz owners alike keep their eye on the ultimate goal, which is a cleaner, more accessible Ronci.

“It will be short-term pain for long-term gain, hopefully.”

About this article:

By: Kris Scheuer and Justin Robertson
Posted: Jul 30 2009 2:14 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto