Some Thunder Bay business owners say road construction along a stretch of south Algoma Street is costing them customers — and they claim the city broke a promise to keep the street open.

Sand 'N Sea clothing store owner Vera Blumberg said she received a letter from the city promising one lane of traffic would remain open.  

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Vera Blumberg, owner of Sand 'N Sea clothing store on Thunder Bay's Algoma Street, said she received a letter from the city promising one lane of traffic would remain open during road work. (Jen Keiller/CBC)

"I’m really disappointed I'm not seeing the volume of people I should at this time of year," Blumberg said.

"I mean, our specialty is swimwear business and everybody should be here, shopping at this time of year. We don't get any walk-by traffic."

Down the street, Marija Harp said she's putting fewer plates on the table at her Algoma Street restaurant, Sweet Pea's.

"We've found a significant decrease in the amount of customers that were willing to sort of brave that construction area," she said.

She said several months ago, she received a notice from the city in which "we were told explicitly ... that they would have one lane remaining open."

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Jon Mintenko and Marija Harp stand in front of their Algoma Street business, Sweet Pea's. Harp said she didn't expect the drop in customers would be as bad as it has been during road construction would be this bad. (Jen Keiller/CBC)

But Algoma Street is now completely closed to traffic between John Street and Cornwall Avenue.

Business down

A Thunder Bay official said the city shouldn't have told business owners that one lane of Algoma Street would remain open during construction.

"We basically made a mistake of saying we would keep one lane open. We never should have," said Brian Newman, the project engineer.

"Realistically, if you're headed southbound ... on Algoma there's no parking and there's no driveways, so all it really does for you is it allows you to pass to the south."

Newman said contractors are trying to keep one lane open on Algoma when possible — just for local traffic — because of demand from business owners. The pavement has been ripped up from curb to curb, however, and Newman said safety concerns prevent keeping a lane open all the time.

"It's ideal to have it open as much as possible, but there's just certain times with safety where it's almost impossible to have it open," Newman said.

He noted the contractor spoke with several business owners about the closures.

Blumberg is frustrated the city has done nothing to help her store.

"My business is down at least 25 to 30 per cent compared to last year," she said.

"Are they just going to shrug their shoulders and say, ‘oh well, next year will be better.’ But meanwhile, we still have to pay our full property taxes, all our business expenses and we don't have the sales."

Kelly Ruberto, owner of Believe in Beauty, said she is a little more optimistic about the project.

"It is messy, it can be frustrating, but I'm looking at the long-term effect of this all," Ruberto said.

"We're going to end up with a really nice street. We just kind of have to grin and bear it."

The plan is to beautify Algoma Streets, adding nice paved sidewalks, more trees and new lampposts.

Construction in the area is expected to last until the end of October.