LRT construction leaves Eglinton businesses worried about future
Some area businesses are taking drastic measures to stay afloat during construction, which they say has slowed business.
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Vendors along Eglinton Ave. say their businesses are paying the price for construction of the Crosstown LRT.
“The whole area is devastated and desecrated,” said Viive Tork, the owner of VII Designs and Gifts on Eglinton Ave. near Chaplin Cres., where one of the stations will be located.
“We’ve been forced into a very precarious situation.”
Maureen Sirois, chair of the Eglinton Way Business Improvement Area, said the area is grappling with many issues – a lack of parking, drastically reduced foot traffic, various obstructions – since the construction of the stations began. The entire project will be complete in 2021.
“Every single business understands that we must build a subway, but it shouldn’t be done on the backs of small businesses,” Sirois said.
Jamie Robinson, the director of community relations and communications for Metrolinx, said the organization understands construction of the billion-dollar infrastructure project will have an impact on local businesses.
“We are working closely to monitor and understand the impact our construction is having and mitigate those impacts where possible,” Robinson said.
Those mitigation efforts included things such as working with the city to relax parking rules in surrounding areas to make up for lost spots on Eglinton Ave., and teaming up with BIA’s to launch marketing campaigns urging people to shop in the area.
Tork said she moved into the area in 2014 knowing LRT construction would be a challenge, but the strain her business is under is worse than she anticipated. Even the Christmas holidays, typically a busy time of the year, failed to bring respite. Tork said she sold just 75 per cent of her rent over last month.
“December was devastating,” she said.
Tork has a second shop on Danforth Ave., which has helped soften the blow of a slowdown, but she is still looking to cut her losses now and sub-lease her rent on Eglinton.
Sucel Olazabal, owner of the Laser Lounge, a laser treatment centre, said her clients are frequently coming in late because of traffic, and have been forced to reschedule or, in many cases, cancel appointments. Business has slowed so much that she has decided to sell her home, in order to stay afloat.
“There are less people walking by on the sidewalk. And it’s only going to get worse,” Olazabal said.
For Barry Silver, the owner of Yitz’s Bakery on the corner of Eglinton Ave. and Avenue Rd., a concern is the fencing and tarp outside his restaurant.
Metrolinx has put up signs outside saying it’s open for business, but Silver is hoping they’ll take down the tarp, which still makes it look like his restaurant is closed.
Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow, one of two representing the area said he has heard from many merchants that feel that they will be left as collateral damage in order to make way for the LRT.
Matlow said Metrolinx responds to the residents meeting requests and that they’ve worked with local BIA’s to provide marketing tools in the interim.
“The reality is that there are still going to be major obstructions to businesses with a project like this,” he said. “But what I hope, and what I’ve been encouraging our community to do, is to stay local… a vibrant and animated streetscape contributes to our quality of life. We want to live in a village within the big city.”
Sirois said she hopes that compensation for local business would be considered in the budgets for “these kinds of megaprojects.”
“There should be some kind of mechanism to help keep people employed or reduce their cost of doing business to help the businesses survive this fate,” she said.
That is not being considered for Metrolinx projects.
“We do not provide direct financial support for businesses that remain open during construction,” he said. “We are open to do more for business, to help promote them, and we strongly encourage businesses to come forward with their own ideas.”