It's important to preserve some sense of normalcy for retailers amid the upheaval caused by construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, a neighbourhood business leader says.
Monique Drepaul, executive director of the Eglinton Way Business Improvement Association, has been helping business owners cope, and she took part in a roundtable discussion hosted by the city Thursday to talk about the health of Toronto's main streets.
Construction of the Metrolinx light rail transit project began in earnest in June 2013. Expected to be in service by 2020, the entire Crosstown LRT line will span 19 kilometres along Eglinton Avenue with a little more than 10 kilometres underground. The line, which will include up to 25 stations, will link to 54 local bus routes, three TTC interchange subway stations and GO Transit.
Twenty businesses in Drepaul's neigbhbourhood have closed since the start of construction.
"They just couldn't survive," she told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Friday.
Some businesses left ahead of the construction, not knowing whether they would be able to pay the rent. In addition, foot traffic is down because, as Drepaul explains, "People don't like to see all these empty stores when they go by. They just feel that it brings the neighbourhood down."
Preliminary roadwork for the LRT was set to begin at Chaplin Crescent last December, but there have been a number of delays, which have kept local businesses guessing.
"Right now there's a lot of construction going on. We have two potential stations. One [site] is at Chaplain and one is at Avenue Road, and that is part of the problem. We're getting a double dose of the construction and this is only phase one of the project," she said.
"They're literally just setting up the headwalls for the station. They're not at the point where they're building the platforms yet."
The key to helping businesses cope, she says, is the sharing of information about the various stages of construction.
"I do know the city is issuing permits pretty much on a daily basis," not only to Metrolinx, but also utilities like Bell and Enbridge, Drepaul says.
She sat down with a city employee in August to explain that.
Drepaul says it would be helpful if local businesses knew, even on short-notice, when a store entrance will be blocked, instead of having merchants show up first thing in the morning "and discovering there's a giant truck in front of them."
She says her association has decided to make the best of a difficult situation, with a tongue-in-cheek set of ads called Style Under Construction and a website with the same name where business owners can see LRT updates.