The water-main rehabilitation that has torn up Church Street since the summer should be over in time to celebrate Halloween, but at least one unplanned water stoppage and the long construction period have left several business owners and employees frustrated.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam tells Xtra that Fer-Pal Construction will finish the project on Church Street by Oct 24, ahead of schedule. Construction on Wood Street will continue for another two to three weeks, putting the overall completion date sometime in early November.
The water-main rehabilitation, which started over the summer, is part of a $133-million project to improve water mains citywide. The Church Street segment started later in the summer out of necessity, to avoid conflicting with WorldPride at the end of June.
Though some water stoppages were to be expected with the project, one was an unpleasant surprise for some local business owners.
At North of Brooklyn Pizzeria, Fuel Plus and The Garage, water was accidentally cut off one day toward the end of the summer. Without water, all three businesses were unable to open until at least 12:30pm; Fatima De Oliveira, owner of The Garage, estimates that she lost a full day of business. Amber Persad, manager at Fuel Plus, says that on the day the water was accidentally shut off, he had to turn away at least 15 customers.
Frank Trinchini, manager of district contract services for Toronto Water, says that business owners were notified in advance of any planned water shut-offs. In the case of accidental shut-offs, contract staff go door-to-door to notify businesses about the disruption.
The construction has also led to some practical concerns about access to the street. Josh Mackenzie, a pizza maker at North of Brooklyn, says that because of the fences erected along Church Street for the construction, the late-night crowd outside Woody’s now blocks the entrance to the restaurant.
“We have a giant hole outside our door, and it’s getting filled with garbage and cigarette butts,” says Persad, who notes that because of the fence it is hard to clean that area. She has also seen people in wheelchairs struggle to get over the small blue hoses that crisscross the street.
Further up the street, Simon Johnson, the general manager at Café California Restaurant and Bar, says that construction has driven some customers away from his patio. “Particularly when they first started the construction, the noise level was unbearable,” he says.
On some other city streets, the cement had to be completely ripped up to allow crews to replace the water main, according to Trinchini. However, a majority of the water-main rehabilitation on Church Street has taken place underground, allowing the street to function normally for the most part.
De Oliveira says that while she understands that work has to be done, and she has already had a month of hydro bills covered by the city as compensation for the business she’s lost because of water shut-offs, she may seek further compensation. Johnson is also interested in seeking compensation because of the drop in patio business at Café California.
Wong-Tam says she is happy to work with business owners around this issue.
She also tells Xtra that the rainbow crosswalks at Alexander Street will be repainted with extra paint purchased in anticipation of the water-main project.