Elgin Street shops rally to draw customers for 2019 road shutdown
Businesses plan to launch social media campaign #IDigElgin to draw people to Elgin during construction season
Residents got their first look at the redesign plan that will shut Elgin Street to car traffic for all of 2019, as underground roadwork and a new streetscape are installed for the downtown restaurant and shopping district.
The consultation drew hundreds of people to City Hall to give feedback on street furniture and other details.
However, some expressed disappointment over major parts of the design, which was already approved in a vote by city council last May.
Some people are concerned there will be no separated bike lane. There will be painted sharrows instead and a speed limit of 30 km/h to calm traffic.
Parking spaces will be reduced from about 120 to 90, with options for businesses to turn their parking spots into patio space. Some were concerned about parking and noise spilling onto nearby side streets.
Several residents asked why the city is not taking advantage of the need for underground work — replacing some infrastructure dating to the 1870s — to bury hydro poles.
"It causes clutter on the street," Judy Forrest said. "When you've got people in wheelchairs, they've got to get around the poles and whatnot."
No money to bury hydro lines
Alain Gonthier, the city's director of infrastructure services, said city policy requires developers to step forward and pay for hydro poles to be buried, and that it didn't happen for Elgin.
Coun. Catherine McKenney said the policy should be changed to allow the city to cover the costs, especially for downtown main streets where it's unlikely a developer would foot the bill.
"You're never going to find a single developer to do the whole street," McKenney said.
"I wanted those wires buried. Our policy should be at the city that any time we're redoing a main street, we bury the hydro wires. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do so."
There was no estimate on how much burying the hydro lines would add to the $36.3-million project.
Social media campaign to support businesses
Some business owners were blindsided when lane reductions came into effect earlier this year on the south end of Elgin.
On Tuesday, they plan to launch the social media campaign #IDigElgin to keep people up-to-date on special events and offers, and draw them to the strip during construction season.
"We just want to let people know we're open for business," said Christa Blaszczyk from The Gifted Type and Boogie + Birdie.
"Let them know there are still bike racks, the sidewalks are still open, there's going to be some free parking available."
McKenney was quick to mention the shutdown has not yet begun, and that there are only lane reductions in place for underground work by Bell. There will be further lane reductions between Gloucester and Isabella streets in early May.
There will be approximately 800 free parking spaces at City Hall after 6 p.m. and on weekends while Elgin is shut down to motor vehicles in 2019.
Detours in 2019 will direct traffic to O'Connor and Metcalfe streets.
Bus routes will be detoured onto Cartier Street east of Elgin, between Gladstone and Laurier avenues.