Business down about 50% due to Eglinton LRT construction, area merchants say

Many store owners along Eglinton Avenue West fear their windows and doors will be boarded up by the time the long-awaited light rail transit line is finished, but both the city and Metrolinx say there won't be any financial compensation.

Some members of the York-Eglinton BIA looking for compensation, but city, Metrolinx say no

Sidewalk on the north side of Eglinton Avenue West at Oakwood Avenue is closed for the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Stores on that side of the street say their business is suffering. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

Many store owners along Eglinton Avenue West fear their windows and doors will be boarded up by the time the long-awaited light rail transit line is finished, but both the city and Metrolinx say there won't be any financial compensation.

Nick Ferrari, who has been running a speciality dress store for the last four decades, says since construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT began in 2013, his sales are down by 50 per cent.

"Most of our customers are elderly and have mobility issues," said Ferrari, who owns Latina Ladies Wear. "The sidewalks have barriers around them and there's no parking. How are they supposed to get to us?"

Construction work is particularly intense along Eglinton between Dufferin Street and Marlee Avenue. On the north side of the street near Oakwood, the sidewalk is closed. The street has also been reduced to one lane, so parking spaces on the north side have been completely eliminated.

To enable customers to get to the shops on the north side, construction crews have created a passage about a metre wide between the front doors and the construction barricades. 

The sidewalk near John Ferrari's store is only about a metre wide. He says it's difficult for his customers to get through. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

"Customers call us and say, 'Are you still there? Has the construction taken you out?'," Ferrari told CBC Toronto.

With 14 underground stations and 11 surface stops, the Eglinton Crosstown will connect 54 bus routes and three subway stations. It's supposed to be complete by 2021.

BIA estimates 50 businesses have closed

Nick Alampi, the chair of the York-Eglinton Business Improvement Area, says out of the 200 or so businesses registered with the BIA, about 50 have closed.

"We need transit in this area. But we're struggling to attract people and [shopkeepers] are asking: 'Can we maintain the rent moving forward,'" said Alampi.

Jason McDonald cuts his client's hair. He says business has fallen nearly 50 per cent since construction began for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

Jason McDonald says he doesn't know if his store, Casual Beauty Salon, will make it four more years to see the positive effects of transit in the area.   

McDonald's store is right at the corner of the barricade, where the sidewalk ends.

"I think they should compensate us, it would be a good gesture," said McDonald. "There's a barricade in front of my store … We depend on foot traffic and right now that's been eliminated."

Too many construction projects to offer compensation

Both the city and Metrolinx say financial compensation isn't an option.

"We have construction projects all over the city," said Josh Colle, the area's councillor and the TTC chair. "We as a city don't offer compensation on any major projects and never really have."

Metrolinx spokesperson Jamie Robinson says there are other ways the company wants to help ease the burden of barricades and disruptions due to construction.

"We work very closely with local councillors, city staff and police to understand the impacts of our construction and to mitigate those wherever possible."

Robinson says Metrolinx offers any BIAs affected by transit construction $10,000 towards marketing strategies or events that will attract clientele.