How businesses are coping with streetcar construction
Leslieville Lemon Festival among ideas to attract foot traffic amid construction
When you think about what makes a good block party, bulldozers and jackhammers don't normally top the list.
But as TTC track work shuts down the intersection of Leslie Street and Queen Street East, businesses are looking for out-of-the-box solutions to attract customers to their construction-ridden street. A festival is a natural choice.
The idea for a street festival came to Patrick McMurray as the road work got underway.
"If life gives you lemons, make lemonade," says the owner of The Ceili Cottage pub. "So we're going to push for the Leslieville Lemon Fest for the next six weeks or whatever it's going to take to build it. Everyone does lemons on the menu, and we'll do a lemon street party. ... you make the best out of what's given to you."
McMurray and other members of the local Business Improvement Area will meet today to discuss the feasibility of bringing a block party to the neighbourhood. The TTC began track work Sunday evening, upgrading the tracks, and readying them for the new streetcars.
McMurray isn't the only one rethinking his short-term business strategy. Some places, including Hola Cafe, have lessened their hours of operations.
The Leslieville BIA launched a "Take a Detour" ad campaign, telling residents that the strip is open for business. It sent 35,000 postcards to homes in the area, urging them to come out.
Edward Levesque is the owner of Edward's 1290. He also sent out thousands of postcards to potential customers in the area. "You can bet like a home renovation it's going to take longer [than the planned six weeks]."
If his bottom line takes a hit, he may close on Tuesdays, and consider asking his landlord for a break on the rent.
"I have good employees who need jobs," says Levesque. "I want to keep my business open."
Like McMurray across the street, he's also looking into creative solutions. He's exploring the idea of putting out patio chairs where the road is blocked off, and opening what he calls a U-Turn bar.
Levesque and McMurray acknowledge the TTC for taking steps to keep businesses and residents informed. As McMurray puts it, "they're doing a great job of listening to the crews and to the people."
They also recognize that the work needs to be done. Levesque says cities across the continent are desperate need of an infrastructure overhaul. If it wasn't his business, it would be someone else's being inconvenienced.
Still, that doesn't mean he's happy about it.
"Am I feeling optimistic or positive about the next eight weeks? No I am not."