Corydon business owners grit teeth during weeks of street construction

Business owners along Corydon Avenue hoped to see a rebound from winter and months of struggle caused by public health orders. Instead they got six weeks of sewer and water contstruction.

Jackhammers, dust and no parking mark beginning of spring season for popular neighbourhood

Corydon businesses hit by pandemic and construction woes

CBC News Manitoba

2 days ago
Construction in the heart of Corydon Avenue has business owners gritting their teeth. Spring brings a boost to their bottom line with patios and foot traffic. Now, customers have to work around barricades and big machines. 2:16

Ripped up streets and barricades are just another hurdle for Corydon business owners in a year where nothing is normal. 

As spring arrives and Winnipeggers emerge from winter hibernation with a hunger for normal activity, one of the city's destination streets is eager to accommodate as much as provincial health orders will allow.

The challenge this year is tougher as Corydon Avene from Lilac Street to Daly Street North — smack in heart of  Corydon's busiest section — is undergoing six weeks of sewer and water repairs. 

Business owners wonder why the city didn't complete the work last October as orignally scheduled. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC )

"Usually in April we start to get busier. The weather is warmer; people want to come out have some summers treats. But it's not happening as much this year," said Lucie Bao, who owns G.G. Gelati. 

Bao says parking is one of the things that discourages customers from stopping for a frosty treat, though she acknowledges the sewer and water repair has to be done and doesn't challenge the need for the work — it's the timing.

G.G. Gelato owner Lucy Bao doesn't begrudge the city doing the contruction work, but wonders it could have been done at a better time for the businesses on the street. (Tyson Koschik/CBC )

Bao and the other business owners down Corydon got notices the city was planning to do the repairs last October, but the construction schedule was moved to this spring, between the middle of April to the end of May.

"If they could have stuck with their original plan of doing it in the fall, which is the slower season for the whole street, then we'd have no issue with it," Bao said.

The big gas-fired kiln at the back of the shop is still burning hot at the Stoneware Gallery, but the pandemic has been blowing cold air at the business, which has been on Corydon for more than 40 years. 

Stoneware Gallery co-owner shows off the shop's kiln. She hopes the business will once again be allowed to run classes once the pandemic is past. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Valerie Metcalfe, one of the owners of the co-operative store, has seen Corydon Avenue morph and change over those decades, and tries to be diplomatic about the decision to do the sewer and water work as the spring season takes hold.

"You want it to be done as fast as possible — I do appreciate the necessity for it," Metcalfe says. 

With a pile of sand the size of a pick-up truck outside her window, Metcalfe acknowledges the work will have some impact.

"It's unfortunate because we are trying to have a Mother's Day promotion this week, so people aren't as free to come and shop as easily as they would," Metcalfe says. 

Metcalfe is an optimist though, believing the uniqueness of the products in her store will draw customers, and eventually the public health orders will ease enough for the Stoneware Gallery to resume its popular in-store classes. 

Sidewalks slow down

Corydon Avenue's sidewalks are a bit less pedestrian friendly, but the business owners believe their customers are hungry for what the destination street has to offer. (Tyson Koschik/CBC )

Just across the street, Jae-Sung Chon preps a coffee at Make Coffee and Stuff and acknowledges the dust and noise from construction hamper a walkable and pedestrian-oriented neighbourhood such as Corydon Avenue.

The business owner of eight years feels for his neighbours with patios, and for the whole street as a destination during construction. 

"Especially when it's COVID, you want an outdoor experience. That's where you can sense a social dimension. And it is much about Corydon. People come here to walk, stroll, watch each other; that sort of thing. That's what Corydon's about, really," Chon said. 

Chon says though he doesn't operate a patio, his business gets a boost when the ones nearby are busy.

Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort-Rouge East Fort Garry) says she's heard some of the same concerns as CBC News about the work being delayed last fall, and she's "crossing my fingers it is done by June as planned with no further delays."

"In talking to businesses (and residents who are worried about them), they are worried it's another pile-on-impact, but I take that as a good sign of undeterred support for local businesses and protectiveness of local businesses," wrote Rollins in an email. 

CBC News has asked the city of Winnipeg for more details about the work involved and why it was delayed from last October, but a response was not received by deadline.